MLB lands Microsoft, America Online deals

Microsoft is expected this week to pay as much as $40 million over two years to video stream live Major League Baseball games onto PCs, sources said on Monday, heightening competition with rival RealNetworks and signaling rising costs for online video programming.

The deal is one of online sports programming's most expensive to date. Microsoft will receive exclusive rights to stream live video of most baseball games this season onto PCs, the sources said. MSN offers these streams as part of MSN Premium, a $9.95-a-month software package that offers Net services and content. One source said Microsoft may also sell subscriptions through its MSN.com Web portal. Users will also be able to listen to live games through the service.

One source said Microsoft may also sell baseball subscriptions through its MSN Web portal. Users will also be able to access games, using Microsoft's Window Media playback software. Microsoft isn't the only company expected to soon strike a deal with the baseball league. America Online plans to announce a two-year, $9 million deal with MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the league's Web business, to offer live audio streams and 20-minute video clips for each game, the sources added. AOL will offer the games for free to its AOL for Broadband members, most of whom pay $14.95 a month on top of their broadband bills for the service.

News source: C|Net News.com

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