Tennis Nets Adelphia

10/19/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

The Tennis Channel aced another major MSO carriage deal, signing a multiyear distribution agreement with Adelphia Communications Corp.

The agreement immediately puts the upstart niche sports service, which bowed last spring, in front of more than 400,000 subscribers to Adelphia's Los Angeles-area systems, according to network executives. It's unclear when the network will launch on other Adelphia systems.

Package Position

The channel will appear on the MSO's "digital plus" tier, which includes such networks as The Golf Channel, College Sports Television, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, Outdoor Life Network, The Outdoor Channel, The History Channel, Biography Channel, Do It Yourself Channel, CNBC World, Independent Film Channel and Sundance Channel. The tier costs around $5 per month.

"We're happy with that," said Tennis vice president of distribution Randy Brown. "It's a strong package, it's not genre-specific, it's broad-based, low-priced, and they appear committed to marketing the package aggressively."

Along with Adelphia, Tennis Channel has carriage agreements with Time Warner Cable, the National Cable Television Cooperative, Cox Communications Inc. and Knology Inc.

Brown would not disclose specifics of the Adelphia pact, but did say that the deal terms are "shorter" than the network's precedent-setting 15-year distribution agreement with Time Warner Cable.

"In the case of Adelphia, we're really comfortable with the term and we had no interest in negotiating a longer term," Brown said. "It's strategic, but it's also being responsive to what our customers want."

Adelphia didn't return phone calls by press time.

This marks the first affiliation agreement inked by Tennis' new internal affiliate-sales force. Previously, Comedy Central handled the network's MSO deals, but that relationship ended when Comedy co-owner Viacom Inc. purchased AOL Time Warner Inc.'s 50% stake in the network last summer.

Brown also said the network is on the verge of signing deals with at least one direct-broadcast satellite service, as well as one "top-10" cable MSO. "We should have those deals in place within the next 30 days," he added.

Elsewhere, Tennis is looking to generate more awareness through positioning on Premier Retail Networks, the in-store media platform, which is telecasting some of its programming in HDTV.

Over the next few months, Tennis programming will be part of a promotional loop airing on PRN's Home Electronics Network, encompassing some 2,000 stores, including outlets owned by Best Buy Co. Inc., Circuit City Stores Inc. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 26 states. HDTV programming airs side-by-side on sets offering standard-definition, as a showcase to its superior visual quality

In addition to explanatory information and match footage, Tennis' in-store HD content directs viewers to order the service from their local cable operator.

"This is a great general-awareness vehicle for us," said Tennis executive vice president of programming and marketing Bruce Rider. "Our network looks phenomenal in high-def. Tennis really pops in that format. A lot of the retailers asked for us to return."

HD Impressions

Citing Nielsen Media Research data gathered by field officials, Peter Cullen, general manager of Home Electronics Network, said the medium generates 12 million gross impressions for participating networks, including Home Box Office, Showtime, Discovery, ESPN and TechTV, per four-week flight.

Cullen said one of HEN's goals for 2004 is to develop market- and offer-specific promos for the in-store media in which networks and operators can flag particular HD services and packages.

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