This comes through our great friend, Ken at Fangs Bites, it is a piece submitted to several newspapers all over the country by NFL Network President Steve Bornstein. Ken has offered to also run any responses from cable companies who wish to state their case. The Bornstein piece now runs in it’s entirety:
Memo To Cable Companies: Heed the FCC and Offer NFL Network Now
By Steven M. Bornstein
The Jets-Patriots rivalry gets more intriguing each year. This week, the rivalry has taken a new twist with first-place in the AFC East at stake and Brett Favre leading the Jets while Matt Cassel has taken over for injured Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Favre has helped spark a Jets resurgence, and Cassel has led the Patriots into position for their sixth consecutive AFC East title. NFL Network is excited that our next game telecast this Thursday, November 13, features the Jets at the Patriots.
Unfortunately, some fans may be left on the sidelines for this game. For the second year in a row, Comcast has pushed NFL Network to a narrow sports tier where fans have to pay extra for games they want to see. Time Warner is denying its subscribers the game and other NFL Network programming by refusing to negotiate a deal to put NFL Network on its systems.
It is clear that several big cable companies 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 good news is that our nation’s regulators are paying attention and keeping the fans in mind. Just last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Media Bureau found that Comcast did discriminate against independent networks like NFL Network. The FCC Media Bureau found Time Warner guilty of the same type of anti-competitive behavior in a similar sports case. It is once again a reminder that these cable companies need to negotiate fairly, not discriminate.
Large cable companies discriminate against networks like NFL Network because we are independent. 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.
Meanwhile, cable rates continue to go up. In the last decade, cable rates have increased significantly even though you are blocked from independent programming you really want.
The recent FCC Media Bureau rulings that Comcast and Time Warner Cable discriminated against NFL Network and other independent networks should be a big step forward for consumers and NFL fans. The FCC ordered the case for additional proceedings. But the cable companies continue to drag their feet and are now trying to delay the proceedings, virtually guaranteeing that yet another NFL season will pass before fans get TV they really want, like Thursday night’s Jets-Patriots battle for first place.
You can take a stand. Contact your elected officials today. Tell them cable should stop the discrimination and give you NFL Network.
The author is President & CEO of NFL Network.
As a Cox Cable subscriber the NFLN is available to me but on an upper digital tier that I will not and can not afford to pay extra for. It’s really too bad because I’ve had opportunities to watch their programing in the past and they bring some good things to the viewing public.
My cable system, much like other systems who offer NFLN, say the reasoning behind it being in an upper tier is that they feel all of their suscbribers shouldn’t have to foot the cost of football fans. To some extent I see their point. But when I look at the channels I do get on extended basic, 68 of them to be exact, I watch roughly half (33) and only about a dozen or so I would say I watch with regularity and the others I watch on occasion as I do not watch traditional network TV except for 2 or 3 shows and sports programming.
So that leaves me with 35 other Channels I have no interest in and about 20 more that I only view on occasion. I personally would welcome the NFLN and the soon to be launched Baseball Network onto a lower tier available to the expanded basic crowd much like ESPN, the Weather Channel, TBS and Comedy Central are. I also realize it is impossible for cable companies to have channels everyone likes and wants to see on the lower tiers. And further realize that certain available channels have addtional costs to the cable companies above a basic cable channel.
But wouldn’t it make sense, for your $50 or $60 dollars a month or what ever you and I pay our cable companies, to let you with today’s technology pick some personal favorites for your basic tier? Out of 68 Channels there are certain channels they have to make available, traditional networks, CSpans, etc. Then there are other channels everyone should get like ESPN and the Weather Channel and Comedy Central, Food Network and similar ones. But would it be a crime for the cable companies to say to the subscribers you have 3 slots and we will give you the chance to pick three channels from our upper tiers at no extra cost and you could only change the services once every six months?
No but it makes too much sense. The cable companies get enough of our money every year and should give us some sort of choice of we watch on the lower tier.
Last year we got lucky when Senator John Kerry (D-MA) got involved and wrote to Commissioner Roger Goodell and got the Patriots lone NFLN appearance simulcast on network TV. But that was because history was in the making. The Patriots were standing at 15-0 and it was the season’s final game. We shouldn’t expect such an intervention or the league saying hey it’s Boston and New York two of largest markets we need to show this when games like Denver and Cleveland last Thursday weren’t given the same opportunity.
There truly has to be a better way for everyone, the NFL, football fans and the cable companies, to get what they want.