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OLN to Ice NHL Games for Tier Subs

Comcast Corp.-owned OLN is already playing hardball with its newly acquired National Hockey League package.

The network this week notified MSOs carrying the network on sports tiers that it will not provide its live NHL telecasts unless those MSOs give the network analog or digital basic carriage.

While 90% of OLN’s 64 million subscribers get the service via analog or digital basic, several MSOs -- including Cablevision Systems Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. -- stand not to receive OLN’s weekly Monday- and Tuesday-night NHL telecasts, as well as its postseason NHL coverage, because the network resides on low-penetrated digital tiers.

Cablevision -- which offers the service on a $9.95 sports tier with other networks such as The Golf Channel and Fox College Sports -- said in a prepared statement that it has “every intention of delivering the games that will appear on OLN,” along with its coverage of local New York-area teams via regional sports networks Madison Square Garden Network and FSN New York.

Cox -- which carries OLN on its “sports and information tier” in several systems - confirmed OLN’s stance on the matter but would not provide further details.

An NHL spokesman would only say that with more than one month before the season’s opening faceoff, fans should not be “overly concerned” about not seeing the telecasts.

OLN said in a prepared statement that the provision “is common in professional-sports network-carriage agreements,” and it is already “working with our affiliates to bring hockey to as many homes as possible.”

OLN will pay the league $15 million if it pushes its subscriber count to 80 million over the next two years and acquires cable rights to a second sports franchise, like Major League Baseball or the National Football League, according to sources.