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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

NFL Network takes aim at Comcast in latest skirmish

(Credit: Watchdog)

I used to be as interested in the NFL Network vs. Big Cable war as any TV sports scribe in the nation.

Not anymore.

But click below if you want to read a news release from the NFL Network about the latest salvo.

The most interesting nugget in it is the NFL Network's assertion that when Comcast was bidding for the Thursday-Saturday package the NFL ended up keeping for itself, it wanted to alter the long-standing provision by which games always are available on free, over-the-air TV in the markets of the teams involved.

I should look into this further. But I won't.NFL Network today served Comcast with the required 10-day notice of its intent to file a formal complaint at the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) about Comcast’s discriminatory and anti-competitive treatment of NFL Network, as compared to national sports networks that Comcast owns.

After months of unproductive efforts by Network executives to make NFL Network and its popular football programming available on a fair basis to the 24.2 million subscriber homes served by Comcast systems, NFL Network has concluded that it has no choice but to bring a complaint under the Cable Act of 1992.

“Comcast has taken NFL Network away from millions of fans and placed it on a costly sports tier,” said NFL Network President and CEO Steve Bornstein. “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 following are among the issues that will be posed by the complaint:

Comcast systems uniformly carry Comcast-owned sports networks on a widely-distributed basic tier, while relegating NFL Network to a special premium tier for which subscribers must pay substantial additional fees. This discriminatory treatment of NFL Network is a violation of the 1992 Cable Act. Comcast and NFL Network currently are in litigation in New York State over contract language that does not impact the violation that is covered by this complaint to the FCC.

Comcast’s discrimination causes serious anti-competitive and anti-consumer harms in the viewing, advertising and programming markets. Program diversity is also impaired which further harms consumers. All of these harms were serious concerns of Congress when it passed the Cable Act of 1992.

Comcast now also is retaliating against NFL Network because the NFL decided not to sell eight regular-season games to Comcast, in part because Comcast wanted an unacceptable condition in the deal that would have violated the NFL’s longstanding policy of free television coverage of games in the cities of the two competing teams.

Despite a much smaller universe of homes, NFL Network’s consistently higher average cable ratings and higher-rated individual event telecasts – with viewership which far exceeds anything on Comcast-owned national sports channels Versus and Golf Channel – belie Comcast’s claims that NFL Network, which reports 24-7 on America’s favorite sport, is “niche” programming that does not merit broader distribution.

Tags: nfl network

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