Don’t Let Comcast Deprive Fans of the NFL Network

Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:50am

Football fans across the country are eagerly anticipating this weekend’s NFL draft, team minicamps and all the other news that they follow closely all year round on the NFL Network. Unfortunately, as you may hear from many of your constituents, Comcast will not carry the NFL Network starting May 1 — denying football fans the unique access and special coverage that only the NFL Network delivers. This affects thousands of viewers both in Washington, D.C., and back in your home district if your cable company is Comcast.[IMGCAP(1)]Last week, an administrative law judge held the first hearing of its kind under the 1992 Cable Act. This hearing was ordered last October by the Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau, which ruled that our network had demonstrated that Comcast discriminated and retaliated against it. Unfortunately, we do not expect a final resolution under this procedure for many months. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for NFL fans that are limited to Comcast cable.Based on the fan interest in the NFL, and especially the Redskins, the NFL Network should be broadly available to Comcast subscribers. However, Comcast, the largest cable operator, wants to continue to limit access to the NFL Network in the D.C. area and around the country by charging consumers extra for it. We strongly disagree. Comcast refuses to reach a new agreement with the NFL Network to make it available to a larger number of subscribers without the extra monthly fee that Comcast now sets and collects for our network on its sports tier. Comcast discriminates against networks like the NFL Network because we are independent. Do you know why your constituents get the Golf Channel and Versus on a basic level of cable service? Both are owned by Comcast, which makes its own channels broadly available. Do you wonder why the recently launched MLB Network is broadly available and offered to fans without an extra monthly fee? Once again, the answer is Comcast has an ownership interest in the MLB Network.Networks like the NFL Network and other programming options are not owned by the largest cable companies. Instead of negotiating with independent programmers, those cable companies discriminate against them in favor of their own services.We have until April 30 to negotiate a new agreement with Comcast similar to the contracts that the NFL Network has with more than 300 other cable operators, Telco and satellite companies across the country. It is not that difficult. We just settled our differences with EchoStar for a fair and equitable price. We hope that Comcast also will act responsibly, negotiate with us in good faith and keep the best interests of the fans in mind.You and your constituents do have options. Log on to IWantNFLNetwork.com to find out how to get the NFL Network.Steve Bornstein is president and CEO of the NFL Network.