Nfl Network

November 13, 2009 by USA Post 

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — The National Football League’s television network reaches 25 percent more households than in March, partly because of its RedZone channel that caters to fantasy football enthusiasts, said Kim Williams, chief operating officer for the NFL Network.

Williams said new distribution agreements with companies such as Comcast Corp., the U.S.’s largest cable provider, and DirecTV Group Inc., the U.S’s biggest satellite-television provider — along with interest in the Network’s NFL RedZone channel — has increased the number of homes where the Network is available to 53 million from 42 million.

The NFL Network represents one of the areas where the league can increase its $8 billion-a-year revenue in a market where it already is the No. 1 sport. The network tonight will show the first of eight live games this season, a matchup between the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers. The league’s six-year-old channel also shows highlights, news, classic game replays and interviews with players and coaches.

“We’ve had some real positive momentum,” Williams said in an interview. “That’s a pretty substantial piece of growth in six months. That tells me that the fans have spoken, it tells me our distributors like the product and that we offer a suite of assets that are pretty valuable.”

RedZone Popularity

Williams credited positive reviews of the RedZone channel with increasing interest in the Network. The NFL RedZone, which is produced by the NFL Network and distributed for the first time this season by companies including Comcast, shows scoring and key moments from games around the league as they happen.

“It’s hard to ignore what I think is an obvious correlation between the attention, awareness, buzz and positive reaction to NFL RedZone and what you’re seeing with NFL Network’s distribution,” she said. “You can see the attention on the product and the positive buzz is having a sort of halo effect.”

Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, said the RedZone channel has created fan buzz through the first eight games of the season, particularly with fantasy football players interested in the performance of teams beyond their home markets. That helps attract viewers, he said.

“They’re growing,” said Pilson, who now owns the consulting firm Pilson Communications. “They’re improving. They’re providing exactly what they set out to do, which is year-round focus on the league and professional football.”

In fantasy sports, competitors select teams of real players and compete using their statistics.

Cable Agreements

In May, the league and Comcast signed a long-term agreement ending about two years of legal fighting that began after the cable provider moved the channel from its main package to a more expensive sports tier in 2007.

The league’s Sunday Ticket package of most NFL games remains with DirecTV Group Inc., the biggest U.S. satellite- television provider, which in March agreed to pay $1 billion a year starting in 2011 to retain the exclusive rights. The extension also said the league and DirecTV would make the RedZone channel, which is part of the package, available through cable, mobile phones and the Internet.

The price of RedZone channel depends on the cable company.

“The cable industry has long lamented that the Sunday Ticket product remains on an exclusive basis on DirecTV,” Williams said. “RedZone in many ways, is a very different product, but it allows us to give cable operators something to offer their fans that they haven’t in the past.”

‘Coolest’ on TV

Williams said numbers on RedZone’s performance wouldn’t be available until around the end of the season, adding “I can tell you our affiliates couldn’t be happier.”

Williams said she expects both the RedZone channel and the Network to continue to grow in coming months as more fans learn of both.

“Given the lateness with which we pulled together the rights to launch it, we didn’t have as much time in advance of the season to reach out to all the distributors,” she said. “I expect the growth to continue even as we go through the season. As we go into our second season, we’ll have a little more lead time to promote and to work with our partners on how best to distribute it.”

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