TW to NFL: Getreal.com

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Yet another cleat has dropped in the battle between Time Warner Cable and the NFL Network. The cable operator has launched a website, www.nflgetreal.com, to drive consumers to tell the NFL they want the network on a sports tier.

On the new site under the headline of “The NFL is out of step with the public,” Time Warner says of the NFL: “They cannot control their costs and they stick fans with the tab. They even want non-fans to pay for NFL Network.”

The site also reads: “In markets that already have the NFL Network, they are asking for a 350 percent increase for adding eight regular season games - games that were available to our customers last year - out of 267. This is a poor value proposition - even for fans. The NFL Network is telling fans that they will miss these games but they are wrong - our customers will not miss ANY of the home team’s games.”

The site has an online form customers can fill out that it says will tell the NFL to "get real."

The website launch comes as the FCC Thursday ordered Time Warner to reinstate the NFL Network on the systems it has newly acquired from Adelphia and Comcast until the FCC can act on an NFL petition for an emergency ruling on their carriage dispute.

While not prejudging the outcome, the FCC said the NFL had a sufficient likelihood of prevailing to warrant the temporary restoration of the network.

It also comes after the NFL Network went on offense against cable operators with an acid-tongued consumer-marketing push.

The 33-month-old network, still without a slot on such systems as Time Warner, Cablevision and Charter, said last week it could spend as much as $100 million, depending on how long its current disputes with cablers carry on.

NFL owners, who passed up an estimated $400 million in rights fees to use the games to grow the network, are eager to get NFL Network in as many homes as possible. Currently in about 41 million homes, it hopes to boost that number by more than 50% this year and eventually top 90 million.

The NFL said last week that talks are not progressing as the season nears—its 52-game package of preseason games kicks off Aug. 11—so it is executing an aggressive campaign to get rabid fans to demand their football fix. The campaign will span television, print and radio as well as NFL resources including in-stadium giant screens, and team assets such as Websites and coach shows. The ads will attempt to drive consumers to a telephone number that will route calls to the local cable carrier by area code.

"The full weight of the NFL marketing machine will be used," says NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky.

The consumer push will use taglines like "Don’t let Time Warner ruin your football season."

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, either in expanded basic or on a separate tier.

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 highest end, ESPN gets three dollars a sub, but the bulk of top tier cable nets are in the 20 cent-50 cent range.

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