Time Warner to Stop Charging for ESPN HD Channels

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Big-screen sports fans, take note: Time Warner Cable is making ESPN’s two HD simulcasts -- ESPN HD and ESPN 2 HD -- available free-of-charge as part of its digital-cable lineup across all of its divisions.

In certain markets, Time Warner had included ESPN’s HD channels in Premium HD or HD Plus tiers that run $4-$10 per month.

Time Warner spokesman Alex Dudley said the decision to provide ESPN HD and ESPN 2 HD free-of-charge to all digital subscribers was part of the broad carriage agreement the operator and Disney announced last month.

The Disney deal also called for Time Warner to carry ESPNU and the forthcoming ESPNEWS HD, slated to launch next year.

ESPN spokeswoman Rebecca Gertsmark said the sports programmer does not “get involved in any way with the retail-pricing arrangements of operators” when negotiating carriage deals.

Most of Time Warner’s HD programming is included with a digital-cable subscription at no extra cost. The operator offers 17-27 HD channels, depending on the market, including local broadcast simulcasts and HD feeds of pay TV channels.

According to Dudley, Time Warner will now typically charge extra for only four HD channels: HDNet, HDNet Movies, Mojo (formerly INHD) and Universal HD.

Operators that currently offer ESPN HD or ESPN 2 HD in a premium-priced tier in some or all of their markets include Charter Communications, Suddenlink Communications and Bright House Networks.

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