NFL Network Kicks Off 2013 Season Coverage with 72 Million Subs

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos opened the 2013 NFL season with an eye-popping thrashing of the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.

As the season kicks off in earnest on Sunday, there will be more eyeballs available to the pro football league’s in-house network and ad hoc scoring channel.

NFL Network has scored a double-digit rise in its subscriber base since last fall, while NFL RedZone, now in its fifth season, will mark a nine-fold rise in its affiliate base since its rookie campaign.

NFL Network, which begins its second season with a 13-game Thursday primetime slate with New England-New York Jets on Sept. 12, now counts some 71.9 million subscribers, according to Nielsen estimates for the month of September. That’s the most for any league-supported service (MLB Network is at 71.3 million) and represents a 17% increase from September 2012, when the league finally added long-standing holdouts Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cablevision to its affiliate roster.

NFL Network now has deals with 24 of the nation’s top 25 distributors, with only Wide Open West remaining on the sidelines.   

Since TWC, BHN and Cablevision came on board, league officials said that NFL Network has launched on systems owned by more than 60 other distributors, including Acme Communications, Casey Cable, Cameron Communications, Carr Communications, Co-Mo Comm, New Hope Telephone, New Ulm Telecom, Nittany Media, Otter Com, Paul Bunyan, Polar Cablevision, Savage Communications, Starvision, Vermont Telephone Co. and Vernon Communications

The NFL’s in-house service --  benefiting from the expanded sub base and five additional game telecasts, it averaged a record 7.3 million viewers per contest in 2012-- has also lifted its TV Everywhere team to five with recent launches by Dish Network and AT-T Uverse, which join Verizon FiOS TV, Cox and Cablevision in offering its content to authenticated subscribers across different platforms.

As to NFL RedZone, the channel that highlights action inside the 20-yard line and scoring plays on Sunday afternoons, is now being offered by 180 affiliates, compared with 20 when the service bowed during the 2009 campaign. The league does not disclose RedZone subscriber numbers.

Cox is making the service more widely available via its Sports Pak 2 package, which is now available on its systems serving Cleveland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Among the NFL RedZone rookies this season: Acme Communications, Cameron Communications, Co-Mo Comm, New Hope Telephone, Polar Cablevision and Vermont Telephone Co. 

Schedule of NFL Network’s 13 Thursday Night Football games:

Week 2: Thursday, September 12 at 8:00 PM ET

New York Jets at New England Patriots

Week 3: Thursday, September 19 at 8:00 PM ET

Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles

Week 4: Thursday, September 26 at 8:00 PM ET

   San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

Week 5: Thursday, October 3 at 8:00 PM ET

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns

Week 6: Thursday, October 10 at 8:00 PM ET

New York Giants at Chicago Bears

Week 7: Thursday, October 17 at 8:00 PM ET

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Week 8: Thursday, October 24 at 8:00 PM ET

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 9: Thursday, October 31 at 8:00 PM ET

Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins

Week 10: Thursday, November 7 at 8:00 PM ET

   Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings

Week 11: Thursday, November 14 at 8:00 PM ET

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Week 12: Thursday, November 21 at 8:00 PM ET

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

Week 14: Thursday, December 5 at 8:00 PM ET

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 15: Thursday, December 12 at 8:00 PM ET

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos