SBJ/Jan. 13-19, 2014/Media

Tier, placement changes to boost NBCSN numbers

NBC Sports Network will add around 7 million homes to its distribution footprint in the next few weeks, moves that potentially could add close to $30 million per year in revenue for the channel.

The channel’s biggest distribution gain will come from Dish Network, sources said, which will move the channel from its America’s Top 250 tier to its more popular America’s Top 200 tier. Dish Network will make the move by Feb. 1.

NBC Sports Network also will see distribution gains from better placement on Cablevision and Suddenlink systems, among other distributors.

NBC Sports Network will be in 85 million homes by Feb. 1, NBC executives said last week. The most recent Nielsen estimate had the channel in 77.5 million homes as of the beginning of January.

Distributors pay around 35 cents per subscriber per month for the channel, according to figures from SNL Kagan.

SBJ Podcast:
Olympics reporter Tripp Mickle and media writer John Ourand discuss NBC's decision to halt Olympic ad sales and its prospects for the Sochi Games.

The timing of the moves comes just before NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics starts. NBC Sports Network will have more than 230 hours of coverage during the Games, most of any NBC network. Inside NBC’s “30 Rock” offices, NBC executives refer to the channel as the “Home of Team USA,” with plans to schedule live figure skating and hockey on it.

Historically, NBC has used its Olympics association to grow distribution and license fees for its cable channels. In the 1990s, USA Network, in particular, achieved full distribution thanks to deals made around the Olympics. USA is in 98 million homes and is scheduled to carry 43 hours of programming from Sochi.

NBC executives credit the Olympics for the current distribution push, adding that NBC Sports Network’s other sports properties also helped.

“It’s the power of the Olympics, along with what we’ve been doing with the NHL, along with NASCAR coming, along with EPL,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group. “We’re finding our way. This has always been a multiyear game of patience with us for NBC Sports Network. We’re never where we want to be, but we’re making good progress.”

NBC Sports Network’s push to 85 million homes puts it closer to one of its competitors, Fox Sports 1, which is in 87.7 million homes. Both ESPN and ESPN2 are in close to 97 million homes.

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