Cablevision in multiyear deal to carry NFL Network

NBC's Sunday Night Football was the most-watched show during the last TV season

Cablevision Systems Corp. CVC +0.20% has struck a multiyear deal with the National Football League to carry its NFL Network and NFL RedZone channels, adding some of most highly-valued sports content to Cablevision's lineup in time for the upcoming football season.


Financial terms weren't disclosed.

The deal further solidifies the NFL's position as a must-have independent sports network for cable operators--at a time when bigger sports networks like Walt Disney Co.'s DIS -0.70% ESPN typically command an outsized share of viewers, advertising dollars and subscriber fees.

Sports programming is an attractive asset for broadcasters and their advertisers because it is typically watched or listened to in real time by a loyal base of male fans, who tend to be big consumer spenders but can be hard to reach for advertisers.

The agreement also gets the NFL Network deeper into the New York market, where the majority of Cablevision's subscribers are located. Of the nine top pay-TV distributors, only Time Warner Cable Inc. TWC +0.46% -- another big operator in New York City--doesn't carry the channels. The two sides have been close to an agreement in the past.

Despite the NFL's popularity--NBC's Sunday Night Football was the most-watched show during the last TV season--the NFL Network has struggled since its launch in 2003 to get carried by pay-TV distributors. The two sides have clashed over subscriber fees and whether the channel should be part of subscribers' basic or premium packages, among other items.

Cablevision, in particular, has complained about the NFL's decision to offer the Sunday Ticket--which allows subscribers to watch every NFL game--only through DirecTV DTV +0.25% and not other pay-TV distributors.

The NFL Network, in a move designed to increase the pressure on those pay-TV distributors holding out, began showing a select number of live games in 2006, mostly on Thursday night. This year, the NFL Network expanded its regular-season schedule and will broadcast 13 games, starting with the Chicago Bears visiting the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 13.

The NFL Network will become available to Cablevision subscribers on Friday, and NFL Redzone will air throughout the football season on Sundays. NFL RedZone switches to different NFL games, presenting highlights as well as live coverage when a team gets inside the 20-yard line.

Cablevision shares recently slid 1.4% to $15.16.

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