NFL Net Gains Content Yardage

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New York— NFL Network is upgrading its programming lineup as it continues to push to gain more yardage with distributors.

Speaking at an upfront presentation to advertisers, officials with the pro-football league’s network emphasized that the service offers original content 365 days a year, not just the eight nights it televises live games. Senior vice president of media sales Ron Furman said the NFL Network will continue to provide those contests, kicking off on Thanksgiving night this season with the Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons, for the next five years in accordance with its distribution agreements.

Reports have indicated that the league could put the rights to those primetime games back into play upon the conclusion of the upcoming campaign. NFL Network was awarded the rights to the Thursday and Saturday night primetime package, despite a $400 million annual rights bid by Comcast.

New this season: an extended version of Total Access — NFL Network’s version of ESPN’s SportsCenter — offering insight into upcoming games from analysts Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Rod Woodson and Adam Schefter; NFL’s Top Ten, a debate show that will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m.; and the addition of a Monday night edition of NFL Replay to the 90-minute versions of top games from the previous weekend that debuted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays last season.

Commenting on post-upfront distribution efforts, NFL Network president Steve Bornstein said the service continues to count 41 million subscribers, 29.5 million from satellite and telco penetration, with the balance coming through deals with Comcast, Cox, Insight and RCN, among others.

Regarding NFL Network’s failure to secure carriage contracts with such operators as Time Warner Cable, Cablevision or Charter, Bornstein said: “This is a three-way street. I mean, the consumer has to tell the distributor what they want. That’s been my experience.”

Last season, NFL Network and those operators remained stuck on the line of scrimmage over their entrenched stands on placement — the network wants analog or digital basic carriage, while the operators advocate tier positioning — and cost: the NFL’s in-house channel carries a monthly subscriber fee of about 70 cents.

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