Time Warner expanding "TV Essentials"; excludes ESPN


In the wake of impending higher rates charged by ESPN to MSOs and satellite providers for carriage, Time Warner Cable will expand its low-priced programming package, “TV Essentials,” that excludes sports channels including ESPN. ESPN recently announced its $15.2 billion, eight-year rights extension deal with the NFL for “Monday Night Football,” starting in 2014. Shortly thereafter, news had it that Dish Network may be headed for a split with ESPN over escalating rights fees. Why? Cable, satellite and telecom companies are bracing for fee increases in light of ESPN’s new NFL deal, which is costing a reported 73% more over its existing deal.

TV Essentials includes broadcast affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS and also has 12 of the top 20-rated basic cable channels. However, it also excludes TNT, Comedy Central, Fox News and MSNBC.

TWC will offer the low-priced service in markets on the East Coast during the next few weeks, with West Coast availability will follow. The offer had been previously tested in New York.

The low-priced service may help Time Warner Cable stem losses of subscriptions from cash-strapped customers.

By carving out high-fee sports channels, the company has been able to offer a package that costs $30 to $40 a month. TWC pay-TV bills averaged $73.50 a month at the end of June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.