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From 1979 to 1991, the sales and distribution of all National Football League programming outside the U.S. was handled by Transworld International.

In 1991, the NFL took sales and distribution for Japan and most of Europe in-house, and assigned the rest of the world to ESPN International, except for the former Soviet bloc nations, which are handled by Turner International.

In some cases, the NFL will assign rights to a broadcaster in a country. More often, rights packages of NFL programming are allocated to different telecasters within a market.

In the U.K., for example, most of the NFL coverage is carried on Eurosport, but Sky TV carries the Super Bowl.

In Japan, the NFL has deals with three telecasters.

Basically, the NFL markets two types of programming packages-one that is traditional games, usually shown on a tape-delay basis (such as "NFL Monday Night Football" on Tuesday nights), and a weekly highlights show created by NFL Films.

Between the two packages, NFL coverage currently is seen in more than 100 countries worldwide, either actual games or a weekly highlights show.

Generally, all of these deals are for cash licensing fees and do not involve barter ad deals or revenue sharing.

But the NFL currently has about a half-dozen worldwide sponsors, including Coca-Cola Co., Eastman Kodak Co., McDonald's Corp. and Delta Air Lines, that automatically have rights to advertise on any of those telecasts worldwide, assuming they are in markets that carry commercial airtime (some currently are on government-owned channels). The NFL arranges all those placements.

Those sponsors are expected to play an integral role in the relaunch of the World League of American Football and may even have equity stakes in it.

The NFL is also expected to have one major "corporate partner" in the World League, someone like a Time Warner or a Viacom, which would own a big chunk of it.

The NFL sees its biggest growth markets, after Europe and Japan, as being Latin America and Australia.

-Joe Mandese


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