Time Warner Cable told Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) it is willing to consider offering the New England Patriots at New York Giants National Football League game as a digital "freeview" on its systems, but it added that the "best and fastest" way for the game to get to the widest audience would be for the NFL to move it off its NFL Network and onto a national broadcast network.
Kerry anticipates that the Dec. 29 game could be the Patriots' historic capping of an undefeated season, and he wrote Time Warner, Comcast and the NFL asking them to meet with him next week and try to figure out a way to let more people see the game.
Time Warner, the nation's second-largest cable operator, does not carry the network, while Comcast has it on a separate sports tier.
In a letter responding to Kerry's call earlier in the week for a meeting, Time Warner president Glenn Britt said he agreed with Kerry that the game was a unique situation and that the widest distribution was best, but he added that the broadcast solution was also best because even if every cable operator could "work out the thicket of rights issues" necessary to offer the game on their basic tiers, that would still leave those who get their TV over the air without access to the game except in the local markets of the two teams.
Britt pointed to a B&C Web item on the NFL's position that it was not interested in a one-time fix and said it showed that the league was putting its interests before the public's.
But, he added, "If the NFL is unwilling to make the Patriots-Giants game available through a broadcast network, Time Warner stands ready" to try to make the freeview happen, as it did with last year's Texas Bowl in some markets.
Britt seconded Comcast in saying that there didn't seem much point in that meeting given that the "broadcast solution" would be between the NFL and broadcasters, but he said he was ready to discuss it further.
Comcast Wednesday told Kerry that it already has a carriage deal for its sports tier and it could not meet with the senator due to scheduling issues.
"Our commissioner is scheduled to meet with Kerry, we've cleared our schedule. We're willing to negotiate, "NFL spokesman Seth Palansky told B&C. "Our position hasn't changed. We want to resolve this."
But Palansky said that putting the game on broadcast TV was "not an option," and that "everyone understands it is not an option."
"Were not surprised Time Warner is not willing to negotiate," he said, "because it has not engaged in serious negotiations with us in four and a half years."