NFL Network in N.Y. freebie deal


NEW YORK -- The NFL Network said Monday that it would accept Time Warner Cable's offer to carry the channel on a digital tier for a week beginning Christmas Eve.

The two companies had been tussling the past two weeks over whether the channel, which isn't carried by Time Warner Cable in the New York region, would be available to subscribers from Dec. 24 to Dec. 30 as part of a free preview. After initially balking at Time Warner's terms -- provoking a flurry of letters between NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein and Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt -- the NFL Network late Monday said OK.

"In light of the fact that 75% of Time Warner's New York-area subscribers subscribe to the digital basic tier, we have concluded that its offer represented the quickest and best way to bring Rutgers' appearance in the Texas Bowl to Time Warner subscribers and to make the freeview a reality," the NFL Network said.

Time Warner Cable and Cablevision had been offered the free preview, which includes two bowl games and a raft of NFL Network programming but doesn't include the Dec. 30 New York Giants-Washington Redskins game (which is already being carried locally on WNBC-TV). The NFL Network wanted the channel to be carried on the most widely distributed basic cable package in both New York and New Jersey. Both companies jumped at the chance to carry the Texas Bowl but were less than enthusiastic about the rest of the channel, especially on basic cable.

Time Warner Cable said last week it would either carry the Texas Bowl on basic cable or the entire free preview on its digital basic. The NFL Network initially balked but changed its mind. It also said that it would offer Time Warner subscribers in both Kansas and Texas the same opportunity but made it clear the "the New York resolution is not tied to the additional freeview offer in Texas and Kansas."

An NFL Network spokesman said Monday night that the channel was still waiting for a response from Cablevision on the terms of the offer.

The free preview is just a holiday sidelight to the larger issues between the NFL Network and Time Warner Cable, which is the largest MSO that doesn't carry the channel. The NFL Network wants the channel on the most widely distributed package but Time Warner Cable has balked at passing on the cost to all of its subscribers and said it would be better on a premium sports tier.