NEW YORK — The 2-month-old NFL Network has scored its first cable touchdown, signing a five-year carriage deal with Paul Allen’s Charter Communications, the third-largest cable operator in the U.S.
The Charter deal, which kicks off next month, will funnel the NFL Network to as many as half of the operator’s 6.4 million subscribers, even though the channel will go on digital basic, not the more universally cleared analog basic.
Charter will pony up a strapping monthly license fee of 20¢ per subscriber, so the NFL Network will collect $2.4 million a year from the first million digital subs who gain access to the channel.
The only other distributor that now carries NFL Network is DirecTV, which makes it available to all of the satcaster’s 11.3 million subscribers.
Still, the NFL Network needs to add cable operators to its lineup at a quicker pace, as Steve Bornstein, president of the network, has said publicly that it will spend an eye-popping $100 million on programming, marketing and salaries, among other expenses.
That’s why the network is not accepting pay tiers from cable operators: These tiers would not get it into enough homes to come anywhere near Bornstein’s goal of 50 million subs by the end of its third year.
As part of the deal, Charter will get a separate network consisting of a high-definition feed of the NFL Network’s programming at no additional license fee, plus a number of hours of library footage for a video-on-demand platform.
Subscribers could call up the VOD programming at any time and would be able to pause or rewind footage.
Although the NFL Network won’t be collecting additional dollars for the high-def channel or the VOD service, cable operators have the option of offering these extras to their customers for a separate price.
The NFL Network’s signature show is “NFL Total Access,” a nightly primetime hour of reporting and analysis of the league, hosted by Rich Eisen.
Weekly pre-season games also will be a feature of the network’s schedule in late summer, and the NFL Films’ library will furnish hours of material to help fill the 24-hours-a-day program lineup.
Negotiating the deal were Charter exec VP and chief operating officer Maggie Bellview and Adam Shaw, senior VP of distribution for NFL Network.