Comcast VS NFL Network

by Matt B

Comcast cable company and the NFL network have been feuding for a while now. For those not aware, here is a very quick recap:

The NFL network wants it’s programming offered as a “regular” digital cable channel, without it’s fans being charged a premium for a sports package. Comcast, on the other hand charges its customers a $5 premium for it’s sports package in which the NFL network is included. It seems as if both sides want to push their weight around and both have their way of spinning the story to make themselves look good.

NFL network stance:
Comcast is trying to get every penny that they can from their customers.
From the NY Times:

The N.F.L. is insisting that the channel return to where Comcastcarried it before the network added eight regular-season games and raised its monthly subscriber fee. That is the focus of the dispute in the F.C.C. and in a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court. The league says Comcast has violated federal laws by relegating it to a sports tier.

So the network just wants things the way that they used to be.
Comcast’s stance:
This comes from a notice that I received in the mail today from comcast:

Despite Comcast’s best efforts, Comcast and NFL network are at an impasse regarding carriage of NFL network past April 30, 2009. We have offered to carry NFL network just as we do today, but they have refused. While we’re far from throwing in the towel, we did want to prepare you for what could happen.

Whatever happens, please accept our apology for the inconvenience. We know you just want to watch great TV.

Then comes a “special offer” that I am sure all comcast customers received giving Starz free for a year or free internet speed upgrade for a year. As far as I can tell, there are no strings attached to this offer, and once the year is up, the service stops. I can find no evidence of a sneaky deal here, so I may accept it.

As I wrote about in the Great Cable Debate, I have cable and believe that it actually saves me money over other entertainment options.

I realize that for many, this will have absolutely no affect on any aspect of their finances. For me, it does. I currently pay $5/mo for the sports package. Of the channels offered with the package, the NFL network is the only station I watch at all. So do I call Comcast and change my subscription, removing the sports package to save five dollars a month? Do I take advantage of the special offer and get Starz free for a year, hoping that the two feuding giants will come to a resolution so I can receive my normal programming in time for football season? I do not know what to do!

It is obvious that neither side will back down. NFL network wants exposure to as many fans as possible. Comcast wants as much profit as possible. As a consumer, I can only side with the network. After all, just a few short years ago, Comcast offered the NFL network for no monthly premium. It was not until the network added games to it’s schedule that Comcast started charging their customers a premium for the station.

It saddens me to know that this feud is not unlike a divorce between parents. Here I am, the child, feeling neglect because Dad will not give me any money until he sees a paternity test, and Mom has been ignoring me because she is exhausted from splitting her time between work and her new boyfriend. I am the only real loser here, but both of the “bigger” parties believe that they have my best interest in mind. I realize that all of this is not the end of the world, but I still do not know what to do. I would love to have a larger voice, but one guy calling to whine about one channel that he will no longer be able to watch is hardly a revolt.

Epilogue:

From Comcast.com:

Comcast Corporation and the National Football League announced today that they have reached a new, long-term agreement regarding carriage of NFL Network and complete settlement of all outstanding legal disputes.  The carriage agreement consists of a broad array of video content, including the live (24/7) Network, video on demand for Comcast’s Digital Classic cable customers, and the ability to offer the NFL’s RedZone Channel when it is created.

Under the terms of the agreement, Comcast will begin repositioning NFL Network from the Sports Entertainment Package to its Digital Classic level of service with a full launch by August 1, reaching nearly two-thirds of the company’s total digital customer base.  In addition to NFL Network’s in-studio shows, commentary and live-game broadcasts, Comcast’s Digital Classic customers will now have access to a robust suite of NFL content On Demand, including game highlights, game replays, the “best” of NFL Films, players and coaches interviews, local team highlights, and other NFL programming whenever they want a piece of the action.

What Does this mean?

The NFL network got exactly what it wanted from it’s case.  Not only will the network stay on Comcast, but it will be removed from the “sports” tier (an extra $5 per month for subscribers) and put in the regular channel rotation no later than August 1, 2009.  This adds approximately 10 million perspective viewers to the channel come August.  Well done NFL!

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