March 1, 2024

The Fifth Down: Time Warner Will Carry NFL Network

6:00 p.m. | Updated Time Warner Cable agreed Friday to carry the NFL Network, ending an occasionally contentious nine-year impasse.

The National Football League’s channel will be available by Thursday to Time Warner Cable’s digital subscribers—about 9.5 million out of the 12.3 million cable customers nationwide. In the New York City market, the company has just over one million cable customers.

In addition, the NFL Network’s companion service, the cultish NFL RedZone channel — which moves frenetically among the Sunday afternoon games to show teams inside their opponents’ 20-yard lines and sometimes as they cross the 50-yard line — will be available Sunday on Time Warner Cable’s Sports Pass tier, which costs $5.95 a month in the New York City market.

In the metropolitan area, the network will be carried on channel 176 in standard definition and on channel 462 in high definition.

The Red Zone will be shown on channel 177 in standard definition and channel 463 in high definition.

The two sides have been negotiating for a while but the agreement coincidentally came one day after the Giants beat the Carolina Panthers on the NFL Network—a game that Time Warner Cable’s local customers were only able to watch on Channel 11. The deal makes Time Warner Cable the last major cable, satellite or telephone company to come to terms with the N.F.L.’s channel, which now has about 70 million subscribers.

Steve Bornstein, the NFL Network’s president, said from Los Angeles that the expansion to 13 Thursday night games this season, from eight, and last month’s deal with Cablevision, another long-term holdout that agreed to carry the channel, “added impetus to getting this done.”

Regarding the length of time it took to make the deal, he said, “As Jimmy Valvano said, `Don’t give up. Never give up.’ ”

Until now, Time Warner Cable had regarded the NFL Network as unnecessary or too costly. The channel, which began in 2003, added eight regular-season games in 2006 to maximize its appeal. Still, Time Warner Cable felt that it was being asked to pay too much for what it viewed as an eight-game channel and placed no value on its news and archival programming, coverage of the scouting combine and training camps, its documentaries, and its behind-the-scenes access.

Time Warner Cable’s long resistance to carrying the NFL Network had been the subject of rancor between the two companies and continued dismay among hard-core fans. Time Warner Cable long argued that it would only carry the channel on the Sports Pass tier, which was not acceptable to the league’s negotiators.

The addition of the eight games in 2006 led the NFL Network to raise its subscriber fee, which prompted Time Warner Cable to fight back. On a Web site it created to counter the NFL Network’s position, the cable operator wrote: “Now, the NFL Network adds a mere eight games out of a 267-game schedule and asks for a 350 percent rate increase! That’s like paying an unproven rookie an All-Pro salary. The price is too high, the value too low.”

Friday’s deal, of course, means that Time Warner Cable feels the price and value are finally fair. According to SNL Kagan, the average subscriber fee for the NFL Network is 95 cents a month, but the finances of Time Warner Cable’s deal were not made public.

“Neither side,” Bornstein said, “ever gave up getting the deal done.”

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