And then there were none.
As in no major cable or satellite providers remaining that do not carry NFL Network or its popular premium sister network, NFL RedZone.
Ever since its launch in 2003, NFLN has trod a rough course in getting clearance on the largest of cable operators. Its launching of the “Thursday Night Football” package, which this season expanded from eight games per year to thirteen, all but smoothed the course for carriage on the premier cable systems. Comcast got on board in 2009. Later that same year, Verizon’s fiber optic-borne FiOS cable system added NFLN.
Yet as the current year began, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable were the two largest cable operators not to budge. In fact, Time Warner was so obstinate that they immediately suspended NFL Network and RedZone upon their takeover of Insight Communications’ cable systems, which took place last month.
It could be said that the league’s decision to expand its “TNF” franchise by five games effective this year may have played a part in leading to these two cable outlets’ change of heart. On August 16th, Cablevision finally reached a deal with NFL Network.
And today, September 21 – a mere 3,245 days after the league-owned network launched – the odd cable operator out has finally taken the field.
According to a report attributed to Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick, Time Warner Cable has reached an agreement with the NFL to carry NFL Network and NFL RedZone. This according to “two people with direct knowledge of the situation.” Soshnick also added, via one of the aforementioned “two people,” that NFLN would be added to TWC’s digital basic tier, at a channel to be determined [updated; see below], while RedZone, which some cable operators offer a la carte for a premium fee, will be included in TWC’s “SportsPass” package, which also includes CBS Sports Network and NHL Network, as well as “ESPN Buzzer Beater,” which is to college basketball as RedZone is to the NFL. RedZone’s channel location on TWC’s “SportsPass” is also yet to be determined [updated; see below].
The Time Warner deal also means that NFLN will now be available on Bright House Networks systems in Florida. In these areas, Time Warner was the predecessor to Bright House.
An official announcement from Time Warner Cable and/or the NFL is expected to be made this afternoon. (As well as a tweet from NFLN’s Rich Eisen, I’m sure.)
The irony is that word of NFL Network’s deal with Time Warner Cable, which serves millions of viewers in the New York City area, came just hours after the New York Giants upended the Carolina Panthers in a “Thursday Night Football” game seen on NFL Network (and locally in New York via WPIX/Channel 11). Neither the Giants nor the Jets (whose Thursday night contest this season is a Thanksgiving tilt with the Patriots that will be shown on NBC) will be featured on NFL Network’s “TNF” for the remainder of the season.
But for Time Warner Cable, which still appeared to be at an impasse with NFL Network just months ago, better late than never.
UPDATE: NFL Communications press release makes it official, as does this tweet by Mr. Eisen: “Hey Time Warner Cable customers: what you been up to the last 9 years? Can’t wait to show you what’s been going on with me. See you Sunday.”
And with the last word: The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir. He reports that on Time Warner Cable systems, NFL Network and NFL RedZone will be side-by-side in standard-definition and high-definition: NFLN on Channel 176 and NFLRZ Channel 177 on the SD tier, and Channels 462 and 463, respectively, on the HD tier.