NFL Network Looking To Avoid Punt To FCC ALJ

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hopeful that league can restart negotations with MSO before carriage complaint goes to FCC administrative law judge.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he is hopeful that the league can restart negotiations with Comcast over carriage of the NFL Network before its carriage complaint goes before an FCC administrative law judge (ALJ).

“We still believe that this should be settled at the negotiating table," said Goodell at NFL meetings this week. "Ultimately, that’s what’s in the best interest of all parties, most particularly the consumers. We would like to engage in a dialogue. We think the FCC ruling is significant from the standpoint that it is very clear that there is discrimination. We would like to get that done either at the negotiating table, or if we’re forced, to go through the process with the judge.”

The FCC tentatively concluded that the NFL had made a prima facia case (on its face) of discrimination by Comcast against the network and in favor of Comcast's own affiliated programmers by moving the network from a digital basic tier to a premium sports tier. But it also found there were factual disputes over whether that tentative conclusion was correct, and so ferried that and a handful of other complaints to an ALJ for a decision within 60 days (of the Oct. 10 release date).

Even that decision is just a recommendation to the full commission, which must then vote on it.

The FCC also said that Comcast and the NFL had 10 days to agree to submit their dispute to outside arbitration.

Goodell said he hoped the FCC decision would lead to wider carriage for the network. "That’s what consumers want. That’s the reaction we’ve got from our consumers. It’s demonstrated by the ratings that we’re getting and the demand that we’re getting for it," he said, according to the NFL.

There had been reports that the NFL Network was in talks with ESPN about putting the eight NFL Network games on an ESPN-owned network to try and get wider carriage, but Goodell said at the meetings that, though he had had discussions with various parties, "it was never to take if off NFL Network."