SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Media

Golf Channel still lacks DirecTV deal

Golf Channel’s carriage deal with DirecTV expired at the end of 2010, and the two sides have yet to agree on a new one, according to several sources.

DirecTV and Golf Channel have signed month-to-month extensions every month since. These short-term deals have kept the channel on the country’s biggest satellite operator at its old rate.

But while the two sides are continuing to negotiate, they have made little progress on a new deal, sources said.
DirecTV and Golf Channel are in dispute over price and distribution. Golf Channel charges distributors a rate of about 27 cents per subscriber per month, according to SNL Financial. It’s not known what rate DirecTV pays for the channel or the rate it is seeking.

Golf Channel is on DirecTV’s Choice Extra package, which goes to about 16 million of DirecTV’s 19 million homes. Golf Channel wants to be moved to DirecTV’s Choice tier, which is where NFL Network and MLB Network reside.
DirecTV has complained about the network’s viewership, sources say. While improving, ratings this year have remained stuck in the bottom half of the 95 Nielsen-rated cable networks. Since January, Golf Channel has averaged 92,000 total-day viewers (12 a.m.-12 a.m.) and 140,000 viewers in prime time.

With more than 19 million subscribers, DirecTV is the country’s second-biggest distributor behind Comcast. Golf Channel, which is owned by Comcast, is in 83 million homes, according to the most recent Nielsen estimates.

DirecTV also is negotiating with Fox, which saw carriage deals for 26 of its channels — including its RSNs, Speed, Fox Soccer and Fuel — expire at the end of September (SportsBusiness Journal, Oct. 10-16 issue).

Negotiations with Fox are expected to heat up over the next several weeks, as DirecTV’s deal with the Fox broadcast network wraps up at the end of the year. Fox is likely to use the leverage of its coverage of the NFL playoffs in January to get that deal done.

Fox has been looking to increase the amount of retransmission consent revenue its broadcast network gets from its distributors, with sources saying that Fox has been cutting deals worth up to $1 per subscriber per month for it.

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