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Wednesday, March 29, 2006, 08:20 am PT (11:20 am ET)

NFL in talks with Apple, others over net licensing deal

The National Football League is renegotiating its Internet licensing deal which expires in May and is said to be talking to Apple and other major tech firms as it wages how much money its powerful brand is worth in cyberspace.

"We're talking to a number of companies," an NFL spokesman, Brian McCarthy, told the Chicago Tribune. "It's wide open. We haven't made any decisions yet."

Those companies include technology giants Apple Computer Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp., Yahoo Inc.and possibly others not considered media players in 2001.

McCarthy also left open the possibility the league would take some elements of its online content in-house.

The NFL's current five-year, $300 million Internet contract is largely with CBS Corp.'s CBS SportsLine.com, which manages the NFL.com site, and, to a lesser degree, Time Warner's AOL unit, the Tribune reported. Its new new deal is likely will be worth "hundreds of millions of dollars more."

Speculation is that the league could choose a model similar to the one CBS announced with Apple's iTunes days before the NCAA men's tournament, which allows users to download commercial-free, condensed versions of the games the day after they are broadcast on TV.

McCarthy said there "could be something with Apple" to resell games on iTunes after they are played.

Apple reportedly declined to comment about the NFL talks.