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you notice the Atlantic Broadband full-page advertisement on Page
C15 in Sunday's Mirror? The cable company explained its position
on why it hasn't picked up the NFL Network's eight-game package
and made very good points. The war between the cable companies and
NFL Network beckons back to 1984 when Music Television led a campaign
in which musicians, like Mick Jagger, would shout out, "I want
my MTV.'' (Trivia question: Who sang that line in Dire Straits'
hit, "Money For Nothing?'') The idea was to get cable companies
to add the relatively-new MTV, and the campaign was a huge success.
The NFL Network has already tried to copy MTV's campaign by trying
to get fans to E-mail their displeasures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The goal by the powerful NFL is to force the cable companies to
pay extra for the game package the network offers, which in turn
will add to viewers' cable bills. I can see the NFL Network's campaign
coming, showing old NFL footage. "These cable companies
they're killing me Whitey!'' Or in John Facenda's voice, "Darkness
shrouded the screen. Time Warner forming an eerie tableau.'' It's
nice to see the cable companies taking a stand here. Until the league
starts adding playoff games to its NFL Network package, the relatively
small amount of games on the network aren't worth the extra money
it will cost cable subscribers. Tonight's 49ers-Seahawks game won't
be available to Atlantic Broadband customers, but the game most
likely wouldn't be shown here anyway if it was played Sunday. Even
Saturday night's Cowboys-Falcons game wouldn't normally be a guarantee
to be shown in this market if it was being played Sunday. On a normal
NFL weekend, this area usually only gets five out of 16 games televised,
and one of them is the Steelers' game. Under the new arrangements,
all of the Steelers' games on the NFL Network will be shown live
on KDKA, as was last Thursday's Steelers-Browns game. You can also
see the games if you or a friend has satellite or the NFL Ticket
package. Steelers fans outside KDKA's reach can make similar arrangements.
It would be nice to watch an occasional NFL game on a Thursday or
Saturday night, but it just isn't worth dishing out more money.
everything the NFL touches turns to gold. The first live game telecast
on the NFL Network, Chiefs and Broncos on Thursday night, posted
a 6.8 cable Nielsen rating. That's similar to a 2.3 network rating,
meaning it was seen in 1.8 million households by 4.16 million viewers.
It was the No. 1 cable show on Thanksgiving, but tell that to the
dogs. The National Dog Show at noon Thursday on NBC pulled in a
5.3 rating that represented 4.1 million households. That's more
than twice as many viewers for the canines. Granted, the NFL Network
is available to only about 35 percent of the televised nation, but
it's still embarrassing to get whipped by the whippets.
-- November 29, 2006. Jerry Greene. "DOG SHOW 1, NFL 0,"
past Thanksgiving brought fans three National Football League (NFL)
games instead of the traditional two games the nation takes in through
tryptophan-laden eyelids. An evening game was added this year, the
first on the NFL's own cable channel, the NFL Network. Diehard fans
rejoiced, no doubt - if they were among the approximate 35 percent
of the nation who had the NFL channel available to them.
decision to move NFL games closer to becoming pay-per-view events
looks like a classic case of eliminating the middle man to maximize
profit. ESPN paid the NFL $1.1 billion for the rights to broadcast
17 games on Monday nights this season. Bypassing competing cable
channels will move the billionaire NFL team owners closer to gazillionairedom,
but it doesn't do a thing for the average fan in Armpit, Idaho (or
Oteen) who wants to watch a game only to find that the local cable
company doesn't carry the channel. -- November 29, 2006. Dave Russell.
"NFL venturing into potentially choppy waters by trying to
foist another channel on consumers," Asheville Citizen-Times
there were any doubt heading into the heavily promoted debut of
the NFL on the league's flagship channel, it's going to be a long
slog for the NFL Network.
Thursday's Thanksgiving Day game between the Kansas City Chiefs
and Denver Broncos averaged 4.2 million total viewers, according
to Nielsen, and a 2.3 household rating. While that's not the lowest
rating ever for an NFL regular-season game, coming in just ahead
of an Atlanta Falcons-Carolina Panthers game on TNT in 1997, it's
also barely a third of what a typical "Monday Night Football"
matchup draws on ESPN. ...
But considering the league turned down hundreds of millions of dollars
in rights fees to keep the eight Thursday and Saturday games on
its own network this season, it wants much better numbers in the
future, and that will depend on distribution. -- November 29, 2006.
Toni Fitzgerald. "Dismal first game for the NFL Network. Just
4.2 million watch Chiefs and Broncos," Media Life Magazine
when is the NFL about the football? If it were, the league wouldn't
be spending so much money on print ads in national newspapers, asking
us to give thanks for cable TV companies keeping the eight games
on the NFL Network off the air.
mind that the NFL is holding the cable companies hostage, or the
possibility that the league is seriously overplaying its hand when
it comes to the interest in Thursday and Saturday night football
this week, when games were decided by 17, 28, 24, 18, 27, 15 and
30 points, the NFL might be careful what it wishes for with those
-- November 28, 2006. Billy Witz. "Weekend's Best
Came After the Whistles (or When There Wasn't One," Los Angeles
NFL Network carried its first regular-season game on Thanksgiving
night - Kansas City beat Denver, 19-10 - but the cable operators
who have refused to show the channel did not bow to league power
Warner, Cablevision and Charter are still saying no.
did not feel pressured by the start of the NFL Network's package
of eight Thursday and Saturday night games. Time Warner Cable has
13.5 million subscribers, and only a handful protested by disconnecting
the first game, we're in the same position as we're in before it,"
said Landel C. Hobbs, the chief operating officer of Time Warner
With so much football out there, Hobbs said, a network offering
eight games over five weeks (five Thursdays and three Saturdays)
belongs on a sports tier. -- November 28, 2006. Richard Sandomir.
"Cable Subscribers Aren't Saying, 'I Want My N.F.L.'",
New York Times
In the days before Thanksgiving, callers did not deluge their cable
carriers with complaints about not getting NFLN, as the league had
hoped, and Comcast and Time Warner stood firm in their contention
that the price of the new network is too high. Hearts must have
sunk in NFLN offices when Denver-Kansas City, the first telecast,
was a dull game; had it been a thriller, football fans who didn't
see it would have complained the following day. Anyway the power
play failed, and presumably NFLN now will cut its asking price to
the market level. It's good to know the National Football League
can't get its way in everything! ... -- November 28, 2006. Gregg
Easterbrook. "Special to Page 2," ESPN.com
commend Time Warner for taking a stand against the NFL on this one.
While I'd love to have the NFL Network, I know a whole bunch of
subscribers who couldn't care less. Making them pay the exorbitant
fee the NFL is seeking for a channel they'll never watch is ridiculous."
Chris Pearson, Cincinnati frontier.cincinnati.com/blogs/tv/ -- November
27, 2006. "Opinion - Voices >From Everywhere On NFL Network,"
whole thing may flop. The NFL Network still isn't on in about half
the homes it could be, including most of New York City. The league
has been heavy-handed in its dealings with cable operators. And
by the time people get the station, they might not care to watch
more highlight shows and players interviewing players, especially
when compared with the furnace roaring elsewhere on the dial.
-- November 24, 2006. Les Carpenter. "On Football," Washington
American Cable Association has called on NFL Network to allow ACA
members to run the channel on tiers, allowing individual subscribers
to decide whether or not they want to pay for the football network.
In a letter to NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein, Matthew Polka, president
and CEO of the ACA, which represents smaller cable operators with
a total of 8 million subscribers, said "if the NFL Network
is as popular as you say, then give consumers the choice. If you
are right, consumers will pay for it. But rather than giving a choice
to our customers, NFL Network is using the market power of NFL television
rights to force independent cable companies to distribute the channel
to nearly all analog or digital customers." -- November 22,
2006. Jon Lafayette. "Cable Group Wants Leeway to Put NFL Network
on Tier," TV Week
days before the NFL Network broadcasts its first game on Thanksgiving,
one of the league's top executives sat in a Senate hearing room
yesterday trying to explain its decision to put games on a channel
that many cable subscribers won't be able to see.
Pash, the NFL's executive vice president and legal counsel, told
the Senate Judiciary Committee that the cable systems should not
have to charge viewers extra to carry the NFL Network on its main
tier of service even as it is embroiled in disputes with Time Warner,
Cablevision and others over that very subject. Those companies believe
the league is charging too much (reportedly 70 cents a customer)
for the service and they would rather place the NFL Network on a
premium sports tier rather than carry those extra costs to their
"The programming is too expensive, the value equation is out
of whack," Landel Hobbs, Time Warner's chief operating officer,
told the committee. - November 15, 2006. Les Carpenter. "League
Official Defends Network," Washington Post.
National Football League played defense on Tuesday before a Senate
committee investigating the nation's premier sports organization's
television policies. At issue are several deals the NFL has made
or is attempting to make that either grant exclusivity to one carrier
or another or dictate the tier on which cable operators can place
pro football programming. ...
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., is concerned that new TV packages such
as the one on the NFL Network and the league's Thursday-Saturday
package of games will drive up cable prices. ...
Specter believes that by fighting to keep the NFL Network and other
pro football programming on the most-watched cable tiers, the league
is driving up the cost of those tiers for customers who don't care
have to pay the fare whether or not they want the coverage,"
November 14, 2006. Brooks Boliek. "NFL defends TV policies
before Senate," Reuters News
NFL is about to start airing live regular-season games on its own
network, and that has Congress a bit curious.
intrigued, to put it mildly, what the NFL has in mind," Sen.
Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary
grilled NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeffrey
Pash during the 90-minute hearing on sports programming. The hearing
focused on how live games on the NFL Network could affect cable
and satellite rates and whether the games raise any antitrust issues
in connection with the Sports Broadcasting Act.
NFL Network will air eight live games this season, starting Thanksgiving
night when the Denver Broncos play the Kansas City Chiefs. Some
broadcast companies, including Time Warner, have balked at paying
the higher fee the league is charging to carry the network because
of the games.
Warner chief operating officer Landel Hobbs testified that the NFL
Network's rates are "out of whack" when compared to viewership
ratings. - November 14, 2006. Joseph White. "NFL games on NFL
Network get attention from Congress," AP.
NFL Network, the television progeny of a league that knows better
than all others how to mint money, is overreaching in its tough-minded
campaign to prove its indispensability to fans in the cable TV universe.
network is overselling the value of its eight-game Thursday-and-Saturday
schedule, which will not begin until Thanksgiving....
(It) is an astonishingly steep value to place on eight games - which
will be simulcast on local stations in the teams' markets. ....
In one newspaper ad, the (NFL Network) cited Time Warner and Cablevision
as holdouts and claimed quite hyperbolically that without it "you'll
miss the best games and the run to the playoffs." The claim
borders on deception, given how many games can be seen elsewhere
and that there is no way to know how important they will be. ...
(Fred) Dressler, of Time Warner, said, "The NFL Network keeps
the pressure on because it believes we will ultimately end up charging
all our customers to satisfy the few who want these games."
September 19, 2006. Richard Sandomir. "NFL Network is Counting
on Fans to Pay a Lot for a Little" New York Times
the NFL itself has moved into the media business, having launched
The NFL Network in addition to its own Web site and team sites that
show the league and franchises in a mostly favorable light. In other
words, you're not likely to find a story about steroids on nfl.com...
know the NFL wants to govern everything it does," said Andrew
Lackey, director of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business
Journalism at Arizona State University. "Any business can try
whatever it wants, but they have to realize they're part of a public
trust and have a responsibility to the public."...
nightmare scenario is 10, 20 years from now, you will not be able
to cover the FNL unless you pay a rights fee," said David Elfin
of The Washington Times and president of the Pro Football Writers
October 4, 2006. Randy Covitz. "NFL, media battle in the trenches
over access issues," San Jose Mercury News
the nation's largest cable operator, has taken its first steps toward
placing the NFL Network on a new digital sports and entertainment
tier, telling its systems nationwide that as of Jan. 1 they will
be able to offer NFL Network only on this tier, according to company
18, 2006. John Ourand. "Comcast Plan is Setback for NFL Network"
Sports Business Journal
the popularity of the NFL, the league's network has yet to catch
on with viewers. Many feel that may change in November when it starts
carrying live games.
now, the NFL Network is the nation's 35th most watched cable outlet,
Buffalo, it routinely registers less than 1 ratings point, local
media buyers said.
September 13, 2006. James Fink. "NFL Network cut by Time Warner"
Business First of Buffalo
before the National Football League opened its 2006 season last
night in Pittsburgh, the league's crowded house of network partners,
who fill the owners' coffers with billions of TV dollars, were already
registering record highs on the acrimony meter.
NBC is paying tribute to the NFL to the tune of $600 million per
year for its new Sunday night package. Now, with the ransom paid
in advance, the NFL is holding all major TV players captive on its
Island of Overpayment. September 8, 2006. Bob Raissman. "NFL,
Networks full of hot air. New York Daily News
Network) must fight the perception that it is the public-relations
arm of the league. And since the network is owned by the league
owners, that's a tough one to shake.
The media aren't happy because they have to sit on the sidelines
while the network gains special access to coaches and players.
September 1, 2006. "So far, no leash for the NFL Network."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Warner wants the flexibility to put the NFL Network in a sports
tier, while the NFL wants it in the expanded basic tier. There is
also the issue of price. The NFL reportedly is asking in the dollar-per-sub
range, higher than many top-10 cable nets now command. August
31, 2006. John Eggerton. "No NFL Net Deal As TW Deadline Looms.
"Broadcasting & Cable
battle in the TV business gets hotter than cable-and satellite-TV
operators struggle over the escalating cost of sports networks.
Any operators resisting a networks carriage or license-fee
demands can count on attacks through advertising, sports talk radio,
and even local politicians and Congress.
for operators, pro and college sports teams aim to push costs even
higher, hatching expensive plans to create networks and beef up
existing channels. Ultimately, subscribers end up footing the bill.
networks are the most expensive programming on basic cable.
August 28, 2006. John M. Higgins. Cable's Pricey Ticket.
Broadcasting & Cable
truth of the matter is that die-hard football fans, whom the NFL
network appeals to, are only a small percentage of viewership. What
the NFL wants to do is to charge all cable subscribers for its games.
this is a raw deal for cable subscribers and that the best
solution is to charge the people who want the NFL network for the
NFL network, and to not charge the people who have other interests
besides obsessing about sport. August 28, 2006. Twobillsdrive.com
question about the NFL has always been: When would the league go
too far in its lust for world domination, and spoil what made it
special? And now we have the answer: Thursday.
If you guessed the schedule's spread to Thursday has something to
do with that devil television, you're right - the Thursday games
post-Thanksgiving will be among the first batch of regular-season
games to be shown by the NFL Network.
I vow not to watch any of the NFL's Thursday games this season,
and I ask you to join me in this boycott.
keep Sunday as the day when American life is dominated by pro football,
the way God intended. August 24, 2006. Kevin Modesti. It's
not NFL's day. Los Angeles Daily News
petitioning will soon begin, but it must have one condition. If
you complain to Time-Warner that you want (NFL Network), you surrender
your right to complain when the new bill arrives. August
22, 2006. Rob Daniels. Networks vs. Cable, a fight fans will
lose. News-Record- Greensboro, NC
the (NFL) Network has ignited a war with cable operators, which
are content with the supply of games and balk at the prospect of
raising cable rates yet again to pay for the price increases
NFL network is pushing. August 14, 2006. NFL
Goes Long. Broadcasting & Cable
NFL is now selling off to TV whats left of its sense of common
decency. Its increasingly doing what once would have been
out of the question. August 13, 2006. Phil Mushnick.Night
Falling on NFL Fans. New York Post
other major sports league seems to have their packages available
on cable and the NFL refuses to, and then turns around and they
blast the cable carriers with negative advertising.
August 11, 2006. Brian Bassett, www.thejetsblog.com
bans local TV from sidelines? Get Real! Disgruntled in Denver
The National Football League is banning most local TV news cameras
from the sidelines of football stadiums on game days. ...TV photojournalists
on the sidelines can no longer be there.
the decision has made many in the media, and not just in television,
upset at the NFL.
Kiszla, a columnist for The Denver Post, says he is concerned newspaper
photographers will be the next to go. Somewhere down the line
they're going to ask all of us to pay for the right to get the images,
pay for the right to talk to the players. The freedom of speech
is gone. August 10, 2006. 9News.com (Denver)
cameras of local television stations will be banned from NFL sidelines
during games this season under a new league policy that has some
Atlanta sportscasters fuming.
NFL has made a terribly bad business decision, WSB-TV sports
anchor Chuck Dowdle said. I can assure you as a result of
this new rule Atlanta Falcons coverage on WSB will go down, simply
because we will not have the video to support the stories we want
said his gut feeling, which the NFL denies is that the
rule is the first step toward trying to drive fans to the
[league-owned] NFL Network and force cable operators to carry it.
August 8, 2006, NFL flags local TV cameras; New rule
banning affiliates game footage elicits protests. Atlanta
When the NFL Network launched its $100 million ad campaign against
cable companies, including Bright House Networks, it used a picture
of (Jon) Gruden to deliver the message in the bay area. But that
wasn't okay with the Bucs. In fact, Bucs officials scolded the nearly
3-year-old network and demanded it remove Gruden and refrain from
any future references to the team in its battle. "We made the
league know if they have a dispute with another company, that's
not our fight," Bucs chief operating officer Eric Land said.
"They have to involve us. They really are duty-bound to involve
us when they start using pictures, images, logos - those kinds of
things. They got ahead of themselves a little bit and corrected
the situation. "NFL Network wants Bright House to offer its
channel to its more than 1 million customers. The cable company
wants to offer it to interested subscribers for a monthly fee. NFL
Network will televise eight live regular-season games beginning
Thanksgiving night with Kansas City vs. Denver. But none involve
the Bucs, whose entire season can be viewed by Bright House customers.
Rick Stroud, August 6, 2006, St. Petersburg Times
subscribers should root for Time Warner and fear the NFL Network
like a blitzing linebacker. If the NFL Network becomes as powerful
as ESPN some day, you know who eventually will be thrown for a loss
with constant rate increases to offset new programming costs? You,
the subscriber. Alan Pergament. August 4, 2006. Subscribers
Have Much at Stake in NFL Spat. Buffalo News
all about the money. The league will go where they believe they
can make the most money. Jim Spence, President, Sports
Television International. August 4, 2006. "Networks Carve Out
TV Turf, May Pose Challenge to ESPN, CBS Bloomberg
disease that eventually infects all these sports is called over-saturation.
Making more games available to the public could also backfire
- big-time. There are people with intimate, and longtime, connections
to the NFL who see trouble down the road. John Madden,
concerned. He believes adding more games to the TV mix will overexpose
the product. Madden said the new NFL Network package could disrupt
the natural rhythm of the current schedule (Sunday afternoon/evening
and Monday night), which builds anticipation that consistently produces
double-digit TV ratings. "I don't want us (the NFL) to become
like college basketball (or) college football where you have games
on every night," Madden said. "That's the direction the
NFL is going in and I really don't know if it's a great direction."
Al Michaels, Madden's play-by-play partner, agreed that if you throw
too many coals on the fire someone might get burned. "At some
point you are going to reach a point of over- saturation. Is this
it? I don't know," Michaels said. "That's the danger that
lurks. If you are going to make things less and less special then,
at a certain point, you begin to pay the price
"NFL Network may offer too much of a good thing" New York
Daily News, February 6, 2006
NFL) painted the NFL Network as this little, startup, information-only
entity. Then they changed their minds, and they will change their
minds again. They will cut out the middleman and bank the profits
themselves. They will cut out the networks ability to pick
announcers and do journalism, and they will shape the message exactly
the way they want it.
The next time around, the league will
take another piece of the TV package away from somebody.
Rich Hoffman. February 4, 2006. Watch the NFL Grow
More Powerful. Philadelphia Daily News
Read the Congressional
Research Service's Report for Congress, "Cable and Satellite
Television Network Tiering and A La Carte Options for Consumers:
Issues for Congress".