Comcast will get to put the NFL Network on a sports tier.
That was the ruling of the New York State Supreme Court in a summary judgment in favor of Comcast's argument that it had the contractual right to do so.
"We are pleased with the court's decision in favor of Comcast," said Comcast Executive VP David L. Cohen. "We bargained explicitly for the right to place the NFL Network on a sports tier because it is the best and fairest solution for all our customers. This decision means that our customers who are NFL fans will be able to watch the NFL Network without burdening those who are not NFL fans with extra costs."
"“The final word on this issue is most likely going to come from the appellate courts," said the NFL in a tersely worded statement. "If this decision is upheld, the biggest harm will be to consumers. They will have to pay more for less.”
The court was unpersuaded by the NFL's argument that Comcast was required to place the network on its most widely viewed tier per a 2004 agreement by Comcast to carry the network.
Comcast and the NFL had signed an agreement that if Comcast secured a package of nationally-televised NFL games then, being shopped by the NFL, it would agree to place the fledgling NFL Network in the basic tier. If not, it could place the network on a less-viewed sports tier.
But the NFL ultimately chose to keep the games for itself rather than license them to Comcast, deciding to put them on the NFL Network instead. The NFL Network had featured highlights and preseason games and other programming, but no regular season games.
Comcast said it was going to put the network on a sports tier on the new systems it had acquired in the breakup of Adelphia and the NFL Network sued.
When Comcast agreed to carry that network, the NFL says Comcast was, in fact, getting the national games it wanted and was required to put the network on the basic tier.
Comcast countered that it had not gotten the package of games--which it wanted to put on its Versus network--and therefore could put the NFL Network wherever it wanted to.
The court agreed that Comcast's reading of the contract was correct, saying it was "free to distribute the network on a sports tier."