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NFL Network notifies Comcast of intent to file complaint with FCC

Fri, 04/18/2008 - 8:25am
Mike Robuck

Yesterday, the NFL Network notified Comcast that it plans to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding Comcast’s decision to place NFL Network programming on a premium sports tier instead of including it in a basic cable package.

The NFL Network was required to tell Comcast that it intends to file a complaint with the FCC, but the network must wait 10 days before actually filing the complaint with the FCC.

In an Associated Press story on the NFL Network’s Web site, NFL Network President and CEO Steven Bornstein said in a statement: "Comcast has taken NFL Network away from millions of fans and placed it on a costly sports tier. We don't believe that Comcast should charge consumers extra for our Network while making sports channels it owns available to all viewers on a less-costly basis. After months of trying to get Comcast to negotiate fair treatment, we have been forced to turn to the FCC."

The NFL Network and Comcast have long been at odds over Comcast’s decision to place the network on a premium sports tier that customers must pay an average of $5 per month for. NFL Network first sued Comcast in 2006.

The NFL Network has said that Comcast’s decision to carry its programming on premium sports tiers violates the program carriage portion of the Cable Act of 1992. While Comcast has yet to see the filing, it anticipates that the NFL Network will say the nation’s largest cable operator is favoring its own programming, such as Versus, over independent producers.

"Comcast makes the NFL Network available to all of our customers on a tier of service that the NFL agreed to by contract,” said Comcast’s Sena Fitzmaurice, senior director of corporate communications and government affairs. “The NFL has immense power in the marketplace, yet it keeps running to the federal and state governments to try to force changes in the deal it freely accepted in negotiations with Comcast. The agreement we have to carry the NFL Network is pro-consumer. It allows us to place this expensive channel on a tier of service for those who wish to pay for it, not on a tier where everyone must pay for it."

Comcast filed a suit of its own against the NFL Network late last year that said the league was trying persuade its subscribers to cancel their contracts, which would have violated the contract terms.

Comcast previously won a judge’s ruling in its favor only to have that ruling overturned by an appeals court in February. The case is now with a lower court after the appeals court said that the contract language between the NFL Network and Comcast was too ambiguous.

The NFL Network features round-the-clock news on all things related to the NFL, as well as broadcasting eight regular season games live. The NFL-owned network did allow the season-ending game between the undefeated New England Patriots and the New York Giants to be carried in simulcast on CBS and NBC after some fans complained about missing the historic game.

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Broadband Briefs for 4/18/08

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