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Time Warner Cable Sports Nets Aston Villa Programming Pact

The regional sports networks that focus on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be spending some time now on the exploits of Christian Benteke and crew.

Continuing a trend that has seen more RSNs offer fare from the Barclays Premier League, Time Warner Cable Sports has reached a two-year pact with the Aston Villa Football Club to show encores of the team's matches and related fare on Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes.

The deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, calls for the RSNs to showcase Aston Villa Weekly, a three-hour program focusing on all of the team's Barclays Premier League games, as well as interviews, news and behind-the-scenes features from the club’s Villa Park stadium and Bodymoor Heath training headquarters.  

Aston Villa Weekly kicks off today on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and Time Warner Cable Deportes on Oct. 23 (see the opening week schedule below).

“Our viewers love soccer and we’re thrilled to be able to provide them with even more premiere soccer programming through our new partnership with Aston Villa,” said Mark Shuken, senior vice president and general manager, Time Warner Cable Sports Regional Networks, in announcng the deal. “The behind-the-scenes content and insider access of ‘Aston Villa Weekly’ perfectly match our programming philosophy and we’re excited that Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes viewers can now watch it every week.”

Noted Russell Jones, head of marketing and communications at Aston Villa: “We are delighted to have signed this deal with Time Warner Cable. This relationship will help us reach millions of homes across America, which will not only provide existing fans with another platform to keep up to speed with events at Villa Park, but also allows us an opportunity to introduce Aston Villa to an entirely new audience. We’d also like to say a big thank you to Lee Berke, president and CEO of LHB Sports Entertainment & Media, who has helped us conclude this deal.”

Berke, in an interview, noted that BPL teams have benefited from the exposure and programming continuity provided by NBC Sports Group, in the first of three-year deal with England's top circuit circuit. Encores of BPL club matches and auxilliary programming is currently airing on YES (Manchester City), NESN (Liverpool) and One World Sports (Arsenal and Chelsea).

"There certainly has been an increased profile for the Barclays Premier League and its teams, even over the past six to eight months," said Berke. "With the NBC Sports Group airing the matches in prescribed times periods, they've created a mini NFL with the BPL."    

Bekre called the Aston Villa agreement "a great deal" as the networks' TV territories not only extend throughout southern California, but east to Nevada and west into Hawaii, and the soccer club also will gain some national viewing via the out-of-market RSN offerings from DirecTV.  He said that Time Warner Cable is an aggressive new player in the RSN marketplace and that "conversations are ongoing about added coverage for Aston Villa."

Berke would not comment if other launches in different parts of the MSO's footprint are imminent.