Time Warner Cable reaches long-awaited NFL Network deal
(Reuters) - Time Warner Cable customers will finally be able to watch the NFL Network after nearly a decade of waiting.
Time Warner Cable Inc, the second largest U.S. cable provider with more than 12 million subscribers, said on Friday it had struck a multi-year agreement with the National Football League to carry the NFL Network and the RedZone channel.
Time Warner Cable was the longest holdout of major cable providers in agreeing to carry the sports network which launched in 2003. The NFL Network, which is owned by the league, broadcasts regular season primetime games while the RedZone channel focuses on airing touchdowns and key plays live on Sundays.
While the channel will be available on Sunday, the first live game Time Warner customers can watch will be on Thursday between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
Due to a programming partnership, Time Warner Cable also negotiated an NFL Network agreement for Bright House Networks, a smaller cable provider with 2.5 million customers.
The NFL Network will be part of Time Warner Cable's digital program package, which includes 175 HD channels. The Red Zone channel will be available on the company's game pass sports tier, which includes sports channels such as the Big Ten Network and the Tennis Channel.
The agreement Time Warner reached with the NFL "provides a good value" to customers because of the additional games the network added this year, said Time Warner Cable's chief video and content officer Melinda Witmer in a statement.
The NFL Network is airing 13 primetime regular season games this year, which is up from eight games in previous years.
Bright House CEO Steve Miron thanked customers for "their patience while a fair deal was reached for all involved".
The long-awaited announcement comes as Time Warner Cable is set to debut its first regional sports channels in the Los Angeles area. It spent about $2 billion to outbid Fox Sports for the local rights to air Los Angeles Lakers basketball games and will launch an English-language network and a Spanish-language network on Oct 1.
So far, pay TV providers in the area such as DirecTV have balked at the programming fees Time Warner Cable is charging, and no deals have been reached. If Time Warner Cable does not reach agreements by tip off on Oct 7, millions of Los Angeles residents could be shut out from watching Lakers games.
As for the NFL Network, the last cable provider to ink an agreement with the network was Cablevision in August. While it isn't clear how much Cablevision or Time Warner Cable is paying per subscriber to carry the NFL network, SNL Kagan estimates that the NFL Network charges 95 cents per subscriber per month in affiliate fees.
The NFL Network is one of the most expensive cable networks, but still trails the market leader, Disney's ESPN, which charges $5.15 per subscriber per month, according to SNL Kagan.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both the NFL and Time Warner Cable declined to speak about programming fees.
Bloomberg was first to report the agreement earlier on Friday.
Time Warner Cable shares closed up 0.9 percent to $94.46.
(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Tim Dobbyn and Andrew Hay)
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