CBS Unit Launches Web Sports Channels

Football and other sporting events from dozens of colleges and universities will be available live over the Internet through a service launching Friday.

Notre Dame games will be free, while Navy, Stanford and other schools will charge $4.95 to $9.95 a month each for an "All-Access" broadband channel that includes live audio and video feeds of some games, news conferences, highlights, play-by-play animation and other features.

CBS Corp.'s CSTV Networks Inc., which is running the service, will also sell access to CSTV XXL, the entire package of more than 100 schools for $14.95 a month or $99.95 a year.

"Fans of large schools no longer have to wait for that single game on broadcast or cable," said Brian Bedol, chief executive of CSTV. "For millions of fans of smaller schools, they will have access to live sports for the first time no matter where they live."

CSTV joins companies like SportsCast Network LLC and Penn Atlantic LLC in helping colleges and universities bring games to the Internet. Many schools and some entire conferences are already showing football and other sports on their Web sites, and the CSTV offering expands the number of participants and games available online.

Schools initially participating range from the Air Force to Xavier, and from the University of Washington to the University of Miami. Most are Division I schools.

CSTV will have channels for all schools in the Mountain West and Conference USA. It will also have separate conference channels for those two, along with Big East, Big West, Pacific 10, Southland and West Coast.

CSTV and the schools will generally share revenues from subscriptions, advertising, merchandise and other sales.

The schools often produce the material already for broadcast, video scoreboards and other purposes, so getting footage online likely won't require a heavy investment by either the schools or CSTV.

Because of existing television contracts, however, live video of football and basketball games will initially be limited.

Notre Dame, for instance, promises audio only for every football and basketball game, but video will generally be limited to less-prominent sports, such as hockey, baseball and volleyball, Bedol said. Video highlights of football and basketball will be available.

Bedol said every school will have some live video, but only half will show some football games and up to two-thirds will carry basketball games. Audio is expected for most of the schools, primarily for football and basketball.

He also said more schools should be able to carry video as they re-negotiate deals with television rights holders. In some cases, he said, video could be restricted to viewers outside a broadcaster's coverage area, and a school might share online revenues with the rights holder.

The launch of the CSTV broadband channels, which require recent Windows 2000 or XP computers and Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 6 browser, come as video technology improves and availability of high-speed Internet access widens.

Currently, only a handful of games each week are chosen for national broadcast, primarily featuring Top 25 Division I-A teams, and contests shown regionally may not be available to fans and alumni who have moved far from their alma mater.

The online offerings from CSTV, which already shows some games on its cable television channel, expands access to the contests.

"It is not designed as a substitute for television," Bedol said. "This is really for the fans that either (don't) have access to a game on TV, or the sports or teams they follow don't get on TV."