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Sports deals shoot and score

America Online and NetChannel announce separate sports programming deals, more evidence that this is one of the hottest categories--and biggest traffic generators--on the Net.

America Online (AOL) and NetChannel announced separate sports programming deals today, more evidence that this is one of the hottest categories--and biggest traffic generators--on the Net.

AOL said it would extend its relationship with Times Mirror Magazines to include original online programming. It includes exclusive content from the Sporting News, including live chats, college football recruiting message boards, and mock drafts for the NBA and NFL. Gold magazine, Ski/Skiing, TransWorld Snowboarding, and Field & Stream/Outdoor Life also will offer exclusive content, including programming, trivia, and columns.

Meanwhile, NetChannel struck deals with CBS SportsLine and SportsTicker, a service of ESPN, in partnership with Dow Jones. It will let viewers simultaneously watch a sports event and receive real-time results and scores online from other games, along with breaking sports news, the company said. The deal also will provide the opportunity to chat with athletes, according to NetChannel chief executive Philip Monego.

NetChannel relies on a set-top device that lets users access the Web from their televisions. It is meant to compete with WebTV, but NetChannel contends that its device is more user-friendly. The product will ship later this month and be available in retail outlets next month, a spokeswoman said today. NetChannel is the service provider for Thomson Consumer Electronics and a partner of Network Computer Incorporated, the Oracle subsidiary.

Sports programming is proving to be a much-needed ingredient in the convergence of TV and PCs, according to analysts. That has been a boon to companies such as CBS SportsLine. Like stock results, sports news is well suited to the online medium because results can be quickly posted in real time, satisfying the most ardent fans.