NFL Network Blasts Cablers Yet Again

Nation's two biggest cable operators still haven't reached agreement on type of carriage

The NFL Network is once again venting its displeasure at Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the nation's two biggest cable operators that either haven't come to carriage terms with the network (Time Warner) or whose terms are not accepatable to the NFL (Comcast)..

As a result, fans who get cable from either of those outlets won't see the important AFC game this Thursday between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots--tied for first in their division-- unless they live in the New York or Boston area, where the games will be shown on local stations.

In an letter NFL Network President and CEO Steve Borenstein has sent to local publications nationwide, he blasts the two cable giants, which he says "continue to turn a deaf ear to football fans, blocking or charging extra for our most popular programming on TV. We in the NFL have been trying without success for months to negotiate with these companies for broader coverage."

The situation has its similarities to a game last year between Patriots and the New York Giants. That time, the NFL Network also ran into the same problems and at the last minute allowed the game to be shown on broadcast television nationwide. But  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said recently the NFL Network isn't likely to do that this time, in large part because the game isn't as momentous. Last year's disputed game featured the unbeaten Patriots playing the playoff bound Giants in the last game of the season, making the match-up extra dramatic. (The Giants lost to the Patriots, but went on to beat them a few weeks later in the Super Bowl.)

A spokesman said there are no ongoing negotiations with Time Warner, and that it continues to fight to have Comcast offer the NFL Network on its basic tier rather than  its sports tier, for which consumers pay an extra monthly fee. Cable operators balk at offering the expensive network on basic because they would have to either raise rates for all customers or eat the monthly charge. The NFL Network is available in 42 million homes nationwide.      

"Large cable companies discriminate against networks like NFL Network because we are independent," Borenstein wrote. "Have you ever wondered why you get the Golf Channel but not NFL Network? The Golf Channel is owned by Comcast, which makes the channel broadly available. Networks like NFL Network, Wealth TV, and a group of other sports and specialty programming options are not owned by the cable giants. Instead of negotiating with independent programmers, the cable giants discriminate against them in favor of their own."