‘Christ-Centered’ IPTV Service to Offer NFL Network

NFL Network is getting on the side of angels.

The National Football League-owned network has inked a distribution deal with Sky Angel, which is gearing up to launch Internet-delivered video programming services that are “Christ-centered.”

“Our viewers will join legions of gridiron fans who already know about this fantastic network that brings one of America’s greatest pastimes into the home,” Sky Angel CEO Rob Johnson said, in a prepared statement. “NFL Network fits in with our desire to provide America with more programming that the entire family can enjoy together.”

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. NFL Network has reportedly asked for monthly carriage fees of 70 cents per subscriber, and several cable operators -- including Comcast and Time Warner Cable -- have refused to carry the sports channel on widely distribution tiers.

Sky Angel vice president of corporate communications Nancy Christopher said the company’s IPTV service has not officially launched yet. “We're expecting that will occur early next month,” she said. Sky Angel has been taking preorders but Christopher declined to provide subscriber numbers.

Sky Angel is offering prospective customers an Internet-connected set-top box -- developed by IPTV technology vendor NeuLion -- for $149, or for no extra charge with an 18-month commitment. Its programming packages range from $14.99 to $24.99 per month.

Once launched, Sky Angel’s IPTV service will carry the 24-hour NFL Network linear channel as well as its video-on-demand content.

“We are thrilled to join the Sky Angel lineup,” NFL Network vice president Brian Decker said, in a statement. “As the only year-round channel dedicated to America’s most popular sport, we look forward to providing our insider’s access to Sky Angel customers.”

The network broadcasts 52 preseason games, eight regular season games and three college bowl games, along with original programming and past Super Bowl and classic games.

The NFL Network counts some 35 million homes in deals with 240 affiliates, including Cox Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon’s FiOS TV and AT&T’s U-verse TV. Holdouts include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Suddenlink Communications.

Naples, Fla.-based Sky Angel was founded in 1980 to “provide a Christ-centered and family-friendly alternative to the standard television fare,” according to the company. It originally broadcast via satellite but has in the past year has refocused on delivering IPTV services.