ESPN is trying to bring its pay-for-access model from cable TV to the Internet.
The sports network's new ESPN360 Web site, which includes live sportscasts, on-demand video, ESPN TV shows and interactive games, is only available to the customers of Internet service providers that buy the right to offer ESPN360.
Unlike other outlets that offer programming content at a charge or even free to prospective viewers, ESPN instead relies on partnerships with Verizon Communications Inc. and other telecommunications providers.
Tanya Van Court, vice president and general manager of ESPN Broadband and Interactive Television, said the benefit for the Internet service providers is that they "get to sell a high-speed data package that's not the same old high-speed data package."
"It makes sense for everyone: fans, partners and ESPN," Van Court said.
But not all ISPs are thrilled. David Grabert, a spokesman for Cox Communications Inc., said the cable company does not plan to work with ESPN360.
"There's a significant cost and expense that would be passed on to our customers," he said.
Cable TV may not be the best model to follow on the Internet, Grabert said. With demands from some critics that cable TV break apart its package of program offerings, paying extra to offer ESPN360 on Cox's broadband service would be heading in the opposite direction, he said.
"We already get some heat on the video side," he said. "Sports is not of interest to everyone."
AT&T also is not offering access to the Web site. Spokesman Wes Warnock declined to comment on whether AT&T would offer it in the future.