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The NFL Network, which is offering an expanded package of pro football games on Thursday nights beginning this fall, has closed a new multi-year extension with AT&T U-verse TV.
AT&T will make the NFL Network available on its U200 package of programs and above but not on its most basic level of service. The NFL would not say how many years the new contract covers.
However, it did say that it will include the new Thursday night games, which begin in week two of the coming season. This year there will be 13 NFL Network Thursday games, up from 8 games last year. The deal also includes NFL RedZone channels, which air Sundays during the season on the HD Premium tier.
As part of the multi-billion dollar renegotiation of its broadcast deals with CBS, NBC and Fox late last year the NFL carved out the window for additional games on Thursday night during the first half of the season and awarded them to its own network. The NFL Network already had a package of Thursday night games for the second half of the football season.
Subscribers to The NFL Network this fall for the first time will also be getting a new morning show, NFL AM, which launched two weeks ago and airs from 6 to 10 am eastern time.
What AT&T still does not get is the right to offer the games to its mobile users. It’s fiercest competitor, Verizon, has an exclusive deal to offer NFL Network games on its mobile network. Verizon has a four-year deal which began in March 2010.
AT&T announced that U-verse TV had exceeded four million subscribers this past April.
It is of special interest to subscribers in markets like Los Angeles which is dominated by Time Warner Cable that the NFL Network will be on AT&T, as well as Verizon Fios, DirecTV and Dish. Time Warner Cable and the NFL Network have been in a years long standoff keeping their programs and games out of markets including much of New York City.
On August 1, Time Warner Cable acquired Insight Communications systems in Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Columbus, Ohio which had carried the NFL Network. They will stop carrying it as of August 1.
The NFL put out a statement saying they had offered to let Time Warner Cable renew with no increase in the fee charged to subscribers. “Time Warner Cable refused and will now offer those customers 100% less NFL Network and NFL RedZone,” the NFL said in a statement. “Of the country’s eight largest TV providers, Time Warner Cable remains the only one which denies its customers NFL Network.”
Comcast, Charter, Cox and others do carry the NFL Network. Although the NFL would like to be on basic on those systems it is on higher tiers which required subscribers to pay an additional fee, just as is the case on AT&T U-verse.
Cablevision, which along with Time Warner, has a major presence in the New York City market, also does not have a deal for the NFL Network.
A spokesperson for Time Warner Cable says that they have had negotiations with the NFL for carriage but “we have never been able to reach an agreement we believe would provide fair value to our customers.”
The TWC spokesperson says they offered to extend carriage of the NFL Network in the former Insight Communications markets, but the NFL refused.
She said talks between TWC and the NFL Network, however, are on-going.
Separately Time Warner Cable has reached an agreement to continue to carry the Fox News Channel, the Fox Business Network and some other related services. Fox got an increase in the fee it receives but apparently not all that it asked for, according to sources.
The deal between TWC and Fox was first reported by The Los Angeles Times. TWC has not made any announcement yet.
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