By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — After years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Time Warner Cable has finally struck a deal with the National Football League to carry the NFL Network and sister channel RedZone.
The cable giant, which has 12 million subscribers, many of whom reside in New York and Los Angeles, was the last big pay-TV distributor not carrying the channels.
Under the terms of the deal, the NFL Network will be placed on Time Warner Cable’s most widely distributed programming package. RedZone, a Sunday-only channel that shows live action from NFL games whenever a team is on the verge of scoring, will be on a specialty tier that costs extra for a subscription.
Launched in 2003, the NFL Network has been a priority of the league as it looks to create new revenue streams. With the addition of Time Warner Cable, it will be available in more than 70 million homes.
The sticking points that kept Time Warner Cable from reaching a deal earlier included the price tag for the channel, which is about $1 per subscriber per month, according to consulting firm SNL Kagan. Another issue was how many games will be on the channel in the future.
This season, the NFL placed eight additional regular season games on the network. It previously had carried only five games. The NFL Network games are telecast on Thursday night.
But it is unclear how committed the NFL is to keeping that many games on its channel. People familiar with the channel note that there is no official contract between the league and the network, which suggests that the eight additional games it was given this season could be removed and sold to another network in the future.
Initially, the NFL was expected to sell the eight games to another cable channel but in the end it opted to put more games on its own network in an effort to boost distribution. That paid off. Besides Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, another large distributor, also recently struck a deal with the NFL to carry the channels.
An NFL spokesman said, “For the foreseeable future, we’ll have 13 games.”