With the lockout over, National Football
League clubs have gotten back to business. So, too, has NFL
The pro football league’s in-house service last week inked an
affiliate pact with Charter Communications
for carriage of the
pro football league’s 24/7 channel,
as well as its ad hoc scoring
and highlights service, NFL
The agreement will lift NFL
Network’s subscriber base to
60 million from 57 million, according
to vice president of affiliate
distribution John Malkin. It
also closes a significant hole in
the league-owned channel’s
distribution line: Time Warner
Cable, Cablevision Systems and
Bright House Networks remain
the holdouts among the nation’s
top 10 video providers.
NFL Network will be available
to Charter customers in
high-definition via its Digital
View Plus, which costs $10
more per month than the operator’s
expanded basic package.
RedZone will reside on the
MSO’s Sports View and Sports
View Plus, which carries another $10 monthly fee. NFL Network
will also be included on the sports tiers.
CHARTER UPS RAMS SPONSORSHIP
Terms of the deal, which includes video-on-demand fare and
future authenticated-content rights, were not disclosed. NFL
Network has a per-subscriber license fee upward of 75 cents
The network kicks off its eight-game primetime slate Nov. 10
with the Oakland Raiders-San Diego Chargers contest.
Malkin and Charter senior vice president of programming
Allan Singer said negotiations began in late winter, during
what Singer called the “early and some of the darkest days” of
the just-resolved NFL lockout.
“We knew we would get a deal done, dependent upon the
resolution of the labor dispute,” Singer said, observing that the
“NFL becomes more and more popular every year. It’s now a
365-day event, and fans and our customers want to keep on
top of the action with NFL Network.”
NFL Network’s VOD offering will also be accessible by Charter
Charter also expanded a full marketing sponsorship with
the St. Louis Rams in its home market. During games in the
Edward James Dome, the Charter logo and messaging will
appear on video jumbo boards. In their homes, Charter fans
will have Rams On Demand with special features. Charter also
scores ample tickets, and the Rams are planning programs to
benefit the community.
NFL Network hasn’t given up on Time Warner Cable,
the nation’s No. 2 cable operator. League commissioner
Roger Goodell, at a fan forum
at the Carolina Panthers
training camp in Spartanburg,
S.C., on Aug. 3, said:
“You’ll be happy to know we
were in negotiations today
with Time Warner. We believe
it’s good for fans, we think it’s
good for Time Warner and we
believe the market’s been set.
… We will not stop until we
get it fully distributed.”
Time Warner Cable, which
represents Bright House in
Cablevision and the league
both decl ined comment
when asked if they were in
Goodell also spoke with
NFL Network’s Scott Hanson
about the prospects of adding
another slate of primetime
action. “The Thursday-night
package has been incredibly
successful on the NFL Network. Expanding that is something
that we’re going to evaluate and consider that with
our existing partners and new partners,” he said.
NEW PACKAGE TIMING UNCLEAR
Some reports indicate that a deal, perhaps kicking off with
the 2012 campaign, could be finalized by the end of September
at a price of some $700 million per season.
Network sources, though, say more meaningful discussions
won’t commence for another 30 to 60 days.
One executive believes the timetable for an expanded
Thursday night package might not come until 2013. At that
point, the NFL can reduce its preseason to two games from
four and figures to revisit its wont to add a pair of regularseason
games to its current batch of 16.
NBC and Turner Broadcasting System, looking to build
value for Versus (rebranding to NBC Sports Network on
Jan. 2) and TruTV, respectively, are said to be front-runners
for the new package.
Both programmers declined to comment.
ESPN, with commitments to college football on Thursdays,
might be on the sidelines for this rights negotiation.
FX, which is reemerging as a sports player, could also factor
into this game plan.