NFL RedZone scrambles for outlets

Dish Network, Comcast on board for Sept. channel launch

With less than three weeks to go before the 2009 NFL season kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 13, the National Football League is scrambling to find takers for its new NFL RedZone channel.

Dish Network today announced it will carry the start-up service, which provides live look-ins to NFL action across the country. The RedZone channel throws to a game in progress whenever an offensive series brings a team within its opponent's 20-yard line.

The service also provides scoring updates from all 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. EST games, which are carried by CBS and Fox.

"NFL RedZone is the most exciting thing to happen to football since high definition," said Ira Bahr, chief marketing officer for DISH Network. "There's no better way to kick off the 2009 NFL season than by changing the way America watches football, and Dish Network is pleased to offer consumers an opportunity to catch every touchdown and the biggest plays as they happen."

Before Dish Net signed on, only Comcast had agreed to carry RedZone, opting to plant the channel on its sports and entertainment tier, which boasts nearly 2 million subscribers. At issue is the league's carriage fee for the upstart service, which sources peg at between 20 cents and 25 cents per subscriber per month, or about what operators shell out for networks like National Geographic Channel, AMC, Versus and Syfy.

While the NFL tries to gauge interest in RedZone, it still faces an uphill battle in lining up carriage for NFL Network. While Comcast in May broke ranks with fellow holdouts Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Charter Communications, the sub fee remains a key sticking point. At the end of 2008, the league was asking around 70 cents per sub for the rights to carry NFL Network. By all accounts, Comcast's 10-year pact with the NFL cut the original fee in half.

NFL RedZone should not be confused with DirecTV's proprietary Red Zone Channel, which the satellite-TV operator offers as part of its NFL Sunday Ticket service.