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Prior to Jan. 1, Universal Sports, which is majority owned by InterMedia Partners with Comcast's NBCUniversal holding a small stake was offered to distributors for free. The channel was not technically a cable channel but instead was a digital broadcast channel.
Now, Universal Sports wants to be paid by distributors for carriage and is being offered as a stand-alone cable network. So far, satellite broadcaster DirecTV is the only multichannel video program distributor to have cut a deal with the channel, but its officers say they are confident that they'll be in 15 million to 20 million homes by the end of 2012. Previously, the channel was available in about 40 million homes.
Unlike many sports channels, Universal Sports is not asking distributors to carry the network on their most popular programming package, typically known as expanded basic or digital. Instead, it is seeking to be part of specialty packages that consumers pay extra to receive if they want the channel.
"We're not looking at this as a network that has to be carried everywhere or not at all," said Universal Sports Chief Executive David Sternberg.