NFL Network, Comcast reach carriage deal

Agree to settle related legal disputes

NEW YORK -- Comcast Corp. and the National Football League have put their differences aside and reached a new, long-term carriage agreement.

They have also agreed to settle the related legal disputes and discontinue pending legal actions before the Federal Communications Commission and a New York state court.

The carriage agreement covers the network, VOD for Comcast's Digital Classic cable customers and the ability to offer the NFL's RedZone Channel when it is created. RedZone used to be an exclusive part of the NFL Sunday Ticket service offered by DirecTV. It provides live reports from games as soon as teams come inside the 20-yard line.

Reports said the NFL dropped its standard subscriber fee of about 70 cents a month to the 40 cents-50 cents range under terms of the Comcast deal.

Comcast will begin repositioning NFL Network from its Sports Entertainment Package to the Digital Classic level of service with a full launch by Aug. 1 without added costs for consumers. This will allow the network to reach nearly two-thirds of the company's digital customer base.

"We are delighted to have come to an agreement with the NFL," said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. "Working together, we have struck the right balance between value and distribution on a variety of viewing platforms."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was "very pleased that NFL Network and other NFL content will be widely distributed in millions of more homes on Comcast's service."

In a conference call, the two executives said that the deal will boost the NFL Network's reach in Comcast markets from more than 2 million homes to 10.8 million.
Both said they had to narrow the gap in negotiations and give up some of their stances, with Goodell saying Roberts' involvement played a key role.

He also said the NFL is not currently in talks with Time Warner Cable, but hopes to open up the dialogue again soon.

Roberts hinted that the NFL could start offering RedZone in time for the coming season and said that Comcast would likely offer it on its sports tier. "I wish we had access to Sunday Ticket, but it is an opportunity," he said about RedZone.