The new deal with the Discovery Channel was executed by Tailwind Sports, which owns the cycling team. Bill Stapleton, Tailwind's CEO and Armstrong's agent, said he was looking for an American company with a global reach. Discovery's networks reach 950 million subscribers worldwide, according to the company's Web site.
Discovery Communications owns several cable television networks including the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, The Learning Channel and Animal Planet. The company's founder and CEO, John Hendricks, was a main partner in the Women's United Soccer Association, which folded in September after going through $100 million in three seasons.
Stapleton said the team's annual budget, covering 25 full-time riders and a staff of more than 20, is $14 million to $16 million. The goal, Stapleton said, was to cover 95 percent of the budget with sponsorship agreements. Other sponsors of the 2004 team include the Outdoor Life Network, Visa, Subaru and Nike.
The new deal could be less valuable without the presence of Armstrong, who is only under contract to ride with the team through next year, though one source with knowledge of the agreement said there is no reduction in payment if Armstrong doesn't ride in 2006 and 2007. Armstrong currently makes about $14 million per year in endorsements.
-- Darren Rovell