NFL Network Seeks Pay Hike

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Armed with a new eight-game Thursday- and Saturday-night National Football League package, NFL Network is looking to score significant increases in affiliate fees and subscribers before the regular season begins in September.

Negotiations are under way with current affiliates of the channel and nonaffiliates on a new rate card that operators said carries a whopping 125% rate increase and a mandate that the network be carried on well-penetrated expanded-basic tiers if operators are to receive the live games.

The 35 million-subscriber network pitched operators the last week of March in an effort to sign up as many distributors as possible before the league’s regular season begins in September, individuals close to the network said.

Most current affiliation deals do not include the $300 million eight-game package, which begins Thanksgiving night.

Operators with knowledge of the deal said the rate card jumps from the current 20 cents to 25 cents per subscriber to 50-75 cents, including the live eight-game package. The fee also includes the channel’s popular on-demand fare.

Sources close to the league said only direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV Inc. -- which has exclusive rights to the league’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” out-of-market package -- has officially signed on to carry the live games. The channel is on its “Total Choice” basic package.

NFL officials would not comment on the matter and DirecTV officials could not be reached for comment at press time.

NFL Network vice president of national accounts Brian Decker said operators like Comcast Corp. that are currently carrying the network have a “mechanism” by which they could pay a surcharge for the eight games, but he would not disclose specific costs. He added that the network is offering great value to distributors at a reasonable cost, well below traditional sports networks like ESPN.

NFL Network president Steve Bornstein said he’s confident that the network will reach distribution deals before the games begin airing.

And network spokesman Seth Palansky cautioned operators that waiting too long to reach an agreement could lead even higher fees.

For more on NFL Network, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page nine of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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