NFL Asks FCC To Reinstate TW Carriage

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The National Football League called the next play in its ongoing battle with Time Warner Cable, filing a petition with the FCC to direct Time Warner to restore the NFL Network to the basic cable package on the Adelphia systems that Time Warner took over as of today (Aug. 1).

The petition claims that Time Warner violated Section 76.1603(b) "of the Commission’s rules requiring adequate notice to subscribers before dropping a cable channel from cable systems Time Warner recently acquired from Adelphia Communications and Comcast Corporation." That period of adequate notice is 30 days, according to the Commission’s rules.

"As a result of Time Warner quietly and suddenly pulling our NFL Network channel off cable systems around the country last night at midnight, we were left with no alternative under FCC rules but to file this injunction," said the league in a statement. "NFL fans who called us today said they were not given a fair chance on the eve of the NFL season to have their voice heard on this decision by Time Warner. We owe it to our fans to help them fight for their rights. Those rights were abruptly and unfairly taken from them late last night."

An NFL spokesperson says the two sides are currently not in negotiations, and no talks are planned.

Systems that lost the NFL Network as of today included football hotbeds such as Kansas City, Cleveland and Dallas.

Calling the filing "frivolous," "Time Warner Cable spokesman Mark Harrad said: "We think we are in full compliance with the FCC's notification rules. The rule is 30 days notice unless the change is beyond your control," Harrad said. "The NFL Network made it apparent to us that they would not allow TWC to carry their network in a manner that was in the best interests of our customers and our business," which he said only became apparent last week. "We notified customers as soon as the possiblity of that impasse became apparent," running ads to that effect in different markets last week, he said.

The two sides are at odds as the NFL Network looks to keep itself off of the digital sports tier on which Time Warner wants to place the network. The NFL says that monthly fees are not at issue, the differences are over where the network would be carried. The NFL is said to be asking $100 million for the package, or in the neighborhood of 90 cents per sub per month. If so, that is high by cable network standards. At the high end, ESPN gets three dollars a sub, but the bulk of top tier cable nets are in the 20 cent-50 cent range.

Having similar troubles with Cablevision and Charter, the network this week launched an acid-tongued consumer-marketing push using tagline such as "Don’t let Time Warner ruin your football season" and "Don’t let Charter shut you out." The wide-ranging campaign spans TV, radio and print, as well as NFL assets, and pushes consumers to switch to DirecTV or Dish Network, both of which carry the network on basic packages.--John Eggerton contributed to this report.

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