Golf Channel, Versus settle with Charter

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NEW YORK -- Comcast-owned sports channels Versus and Golf Channel late Tuesday reached an agreement in principle with cable operator Charter Communications that avoided the networks pulling their signal from Charter's 4 million-5 million subscribers.

Versus and Golf Channel both threatened to pull the signal by midnight Wednesday if a new carriage agreement hadn't been reached. Charter's agreements with Versus and Golf Channel both ran out more than a year ago but had been extended until recently.

Terms of the deal weren't announced. The parties declined comment on the specifics Tuesday, though at least Golf Channel was going to stay on its basic cable position.

"Golf fans will continue to be able to enjoy Golf programming, including the PGA Tour, on basic cable as they have for the past decade," a Golf Channel spokesman said late Tuesday.

It wasn't clear whether the same could be said for Versus. Versus declined comment.

"While we finalize our agreement, Versus fans will be able to enjoy NHL programming uninterrupted," Versus said in a statement late Tuesday.

Golf Channel was upset about Charter's plans to move it from expanded basic, where it reached most of Charter's subscribers, to a sports tier that would have required viewers to pay to see Golf Channel and Versus as well. Versus, previously known as the Outdoor Life Network, is heading into the National Hockey League playoffs. Versus has a rights deal with the NHL that includes national regular-season games as well as the early rounds of the playoffs. The Golf Channel carries shoulder programming for this week's Masters though it has no actual tournament coverage.

An NHL spokeswoman said the league is in touch with Comcast and supports Comcast in the fight but said it is something that the companies have to work out themselves.

Versus is no stranger to battles for carriage. It fought Dish Network in October 2005 for several days before a new deal was struck in time for most of the NHL season.

St. Louis-based Charter has a little more than 5 million subscribers in Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, Connecticut, Massachusetts and the Fort Worth, Texas, region, among others. The Golf Channel and Versus, however, aren't available in all of these markets.
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