MICROSOFT PAYS RECORD FOR SUPER BOWL WEB AD

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The National Football League and NBC Sports today announce a Super Bowl Web site that will set a record for Internet ad pricing.

Microsoft Corp. has signed on as title sponsor of the site, which goes up Dec. 28 for six weeks and carries a top price tag of $225,000.

Eight other sponsorship positions range in price from $100,000 to $150,000, making the Super Bowl site the most expensive yet on the Web.

"Everything about the Super Bowl has always commanded a premium," said Ann Kirschner, VP-programming and media development at NFL Enterprises.

Interactive Media Sales, Hermosa Beach, Calif., the agency handling ad sales for the site, estimates the home page will get 5.6 million visits during the six-week run, but isn't guaranteeing that traffic to advertisers.

ESPN's highly popular Web site (http://espnet.sportszone.com) gets a similar number of visits but charges sponsors just $37,500 per month.

As part of its agreement with the NFL, Microsoft will place 80,000 copies of its Internet Explorer Web browser on seats at the Jan. 28 game at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., and will supply much of the technical infrastructure to run the Web site. The entire package could be worth more than $500,000.

Microsoft isn't currently an NFL sponsor, but there are strong signs it could become one soon.

The agreement is "part of a large and growing relationship with Microsoft," Ms. Kirschner said. Microsoft and NBC last week formed a separate, long-term relationship to develop an all-news channel and online service (see story on Page 4).

The site, at http://www.superbowl.com, will feature NFL team statistics, Super Bowl history, a store offering NFL and NBC Sports merchandise and a sweepstakes offering a trip to the Pro Bowl. On game day, the site will carry real-time data updates and possibly audio and video clips. (The current tenant of the superbowl.com address, the Phoenix Host Committee, will be a part of the site when the NFL and NBC take it over at the end of the month.)

NBC and the NFL also are teaming for a TV special on Jan. 27 (AA, Nov. 27). Fans will be able to contribute ideas for the show via the Web site. Advertisers will be able to buy 10-second audio ads on the site for an additional, undetermined price.

All three partners will promote the site heavily on TV, on the Web and on Super Bowl collateral.

"It's important to help bring the Internet to the general population," said Steve Guggenheimer, product manager with Microsoft. "What better event to do that than the Super Bowl?"

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