NFL, Comcast Heading to Trial Over NFL Network Tiering
New York State Appeals Court Reverses Decision by New York State Supreme Court
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/26/2008 12:30:00 PM
Comcast won a summary judgment in May from a New York State Supreme Court judge that it was within its rights to carry the network on a sports tier rather than the more widely carried basic tier. But the NFL challenged that and filed for its own summary judgment that it should be more widely carried.
That initial decision was reversed Tuesday by a panel of judges, who also rejected the NFL's request for summary judgment, and the two parties will now have to go to trial.
The four-judge panel concluded, "The agreements are ambiguous with respect to the scope of the tiering provision and that neither party has established a definitive interpretation as a matter of law. Accordingly, the motion court’s holding that the agreements unambiguously permit Comcast to tier the NFL Network is reversed, and summary judgment is denied to both parties."
"We are pleased that the lower-court decision was reversed," the NFL said in a statement. "We believe today’s decision ultimately will lead to the restoration of NFL Network service to the millions of fans who received it before the network was moved to an expensive sports tier."
Comcast was looking to put the best face on the reversal, saying in its statement: "We are pleased that the Appellate Court agreed that Comcast's main argument is a strong one and denied the NFL's request to enter judgment in their favor. We look forward to pressing ahead with discovery and trial in this case to vindicate our right to carry NFL Network on a sports tier, which is the fairest and best result for our customers."
The two parties have been locked in a legal battle over carriage, which included a separate suit filed by Comcast against the league over a campaign to get viewers to switch to satellite.
The flap also shared the spotlight with the New England Patriots’ early run toward immortality and the effort to get the team’s regular-season-ending game at the New York Giants wider carriage than its NFL Network audience.
Come on people. When will you realize that the problem here is not with Direct Tv, the problem is with the cable operators. They don''t want to allow people to watch "a la carte" channels. Has anyone bothered to ask why cable bundels channels? So they can place lousy channels that would not be watched ordinarily, with good ones that people want to see. They are fighting the FCC as we speak on this very subject. Direct Tv offers the NFL channel as part of their ESPN channels. You DO NOT have to subscribe to the Sunday ticket in order to see LIVE footbal games. You do if you want to watch ALL the games being played. The Patriot / Giants game last season that upset so many people, was LIVE on the NFL channel. If the NFL didn''t care about their viewers, then why did they offer that game on NBC and CBS for free? To show you people that you don''t have to be stuck in cable hell--that''s why. They also have an arrangement that they can switch regularly-scheduled games that aren''t important to playoff races, to games that are important to playoff races, the last couple of months of the season. If the NFL didn''t care about viewers, then why would they go to that trouble? Advertising dollars for a competitive game--that''s why. They make their money in advertising dollars, ticket sales, and clothing. Yes they get a percentage from cable and satellite operators--but that''s not the only way.
No I don''t think people who don''t care about sports should have to foot the bill for basic cable services, but don''t blame the NFL. They sold the package of ESPN channels to Direct Tv, Dish Network as well as the cable operators. How they sell the programming isn''t the NFL''s fault. Yes the NFL is a powerful entity making obscene amounts of money. But it is in their best interests to have as many viewers as possible. The problem is that cable is watching their "bread and butter" slowly dissipate, and they are scrambling to try to squeeze every last drop out of their dwindling empire. If you don''t believe me, just go down to your local cable office to pay your next bill. I dare you to count how many people are turning in their boxes. Wake up people! Drop cable like the bad habit it is. You get more programming, less hassles, and actual customer service--yes I said customer service, when you drop cable and go satellite. Yes you can order HD pay-per-view movies, and bad weather doesn''t affect the signal as bad, or as long, as cable wants you to believe...
Joe James - 2/27/2008 3:58:00 PM EST
The NFL couldn't care less about viewers; if they did why then did they enter into an exclusive deal with Direct TV for the NFL's Sunday Ticket? Had they cared about how many of their fans could watch all those games they would have made it available to all, cable, satellite and telecoms but since their only concern is lining their pocket's they did not. And had they allowed any company wanting to, to carry it they would surely have made as much if not more money. One would hope that the court and jury considers this point when the case is heard. I love football, and if the Sunday Ticket was available on my cable system I would consider buying it. By the same token I would not expect my mother, my in-laws or others that are not all that interested in football, or sports in general, to have to share in the cost for a basic level of service, especially for something that they do not watch, has a rather narrow audience and will no doubt add cost to their service while on their fixed income.
John Drake - 2/27/2008 11:37:00 AM EST
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