No NFL Net Deal As TW Deadline Looms


With Time Warner planning to start pulling the NFL Network off newly acquired systems soon after its 30-day notification window is up this weekend, the two are still talking, but nothing conclusive has come of the talks, according to Time Warner spokesman Mark Harrad.

The NFL Network was sounding lpessimistic, with a spokesman saying talks had broken off.Time Warner does not carry the NFL Network on its systems, so it took the network off the systems of Comcast and Adelphia when it acquired them in early August.
But the FCC, which the month before had paved the way with its approval of the Adelphia break-up,  made Time Warner put the network back on almost immediately, saying that the cable operator did not give the requisite 30-day notice before pulling the games and concluding the NFL Network would suffer more from not reaching sports fans whose viewing patterns are set during preseason than Time Warner would from keeping on a network it wanted on its systems anyway, under the right terms.

The NFL Network carries every preseason game, but does not have a regular season game until Thanksgiving (Nov. 23, Denver vs. Kansas City), so, while the FCC acted quickly to restore the preseason games in August and try to nudge a market solution, after the regular season starts Sept. 7, there would arguably be less government impetus to push the parties until November, and Time Warner is free to pull it.

Time Warner put the network back on Aug. 3--it had pulled it Aug. 1--and still intends to stop carrying the network if no agreement has been reached by this weekend, though it will not necessarily pull them all at once on Sept. 3, says Harrad, providing a buffer in case some systems did not start notifying customers exactly on the Aug. 3 date. It could be a rolling process, or all at once, as was the case when it pulled the network, says Harrad.

Time Warner wants the flexibility to put the NFL Network in a sports tier, while the NFL wants it in the expanded basic tier. There is also the issue of price. The NFL reportedly is asking in the dollar-per-sub range, higher than many top-10 cable nets now command.

Harrad points out that in the Comcast and Adelphia systems it acquired, the network had been running in a variety of tiers including sports tiers, digital tiers, digital-plus tiers and expanded basic.

"It appears we have a fundamental disagreement of where this content belongs," says NFL Networks Communications Director Seth Palansky. "We will not do a deal that distributes our network on a sports tier. " We offer 170 football games a year, including what is sure to end up as some of the Top 25 most watched cable shows of the year." In the markets we were on via Adelphia or Comcast, we would hope Time Warner does the right thing and continues to honor those contracts and continue carrying NFL Network." Talks have broken off and in light of the position they are taking, we are not optimistic Time Warner will offer its customers our channel despite the fact they remain the only Top 5 provider not to.