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Also: Rovi and Hulu pass the peace pipe; Aurora takes over a piece of Harmonic; FreedomPop puts some pressure on cable ISPs

DirecTV Might Sack Its NFL Exclusive

Mari Silbey

Here's a look at what's movin' and shakin' in the world of broadband and cable.

  • DirecTV Group Inc. has been going steady with NFL Sunday Ticket, the popular out-of-market subscription package, since 1994, but CFO Pat Doyle said at a conference Wednesday that the satellite TV provider would consider dropping the exclusivity clause in its contract when the current deal expires in 2015. The Hollywood Reporter notes that DirecTV would even contemplate getting rid of the service altogether if rates run too high. The Sunday Ticket price increases reflect a broader trend in sports programming in recent years. While anything but exclusive, ESPN expects to bring in more than $7 per subscriber in licensing fees starting in 2017. (See Cable: DirecTV's 'Ticket' to Broadband Content.)
  • Rovi Corp. and Hulu LLC have decided to bury the hatchet with a new licensing agreement. Rovi sued Hulu in 2011 for infringing on its interactive television patents, but the new licensing deal effectively ends all legal action between the two companies. The lawsuit itself evokes memories of Gemstar's litigious history before the company was acquired by Rovi in 2007. More recently, Rovi lost a patent infringement case against the Dutch MSO Ziggo B.V., when a judge found that Rovi's intellectual property did not meet innovation requirements under Dutch law. (See Patent Power.)
  • Harmonic Inc. is officially out of the cable access game after Aurora Networks Inc. has completed its asset acquisition of Harmonic's optical transmission equipment business. The $46 million deal means Harmonic gets to shift focus entirely to its video processing gear, edge QAMs and its budding Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) product. The deal fleshes out Aurora's product portfolio while also expanding its customer base in the U.S. and abroad. Some of Harmonic's key cable access accounts included U.K. MSO Virgin Media Inc. in the U.K. (soon to become part of Liberty Global Inc.), and US cable heavyweights Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. (See Aurora's Value Proposition.)
  • Cable may need to brace for more competition from over-the-air (OTA) broadcast as alternative providers rake in more revenue. Mohu, creator of the Leaf antenna for OTA TV, announced yesterday that revenues rose 700 percent in 2012, and expects a further increase of 300 percent in 2013. The company estimates that it has "saved its customers more than $220 million in monthly cable and satellite bills."
  • Elsewhere on the competitive cable front, wireless Internet service provider FreedomPop launched a free broadband service on Wednesday. FreedomPop is giving consumers 1 gigabyte of data per month at no cost, and is promising speeds of 1.5 Mbit/s. That's far below anything traditional ISPs offer, but you can't beat the price tag. Using the Clearwire LLC WiMAX network, FreedomPop is also offering three other service packages: 10GB for $10 a month, or $15 a month for 3Mbit/s or $18 for an 8Mbit/s connection. — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable
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    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    3/8/2013 | 1:17:43 PM
    re: DirecTV Might Sack Its NFL Exclusive
    The coming end of DirecTV's exclusivity with NFL Sunday ticket is all but inevitable. DirecTV really had to stretch to make the last deal count, and I wonder how much more value DirecTV could squeeze out of this deal , anyway.-á In the meantime, NFL Red Zone is a great way to get that out-of-market football fix... not sure I'd pony up the $$ to get 'Ticket' even when it comes come to cable.-á, though, is a tremendous value, in my book. JB
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