NFL Blames Cable Operators as Senators Criticize Games’ Limited Availability

Oct 29, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The National Football League is defending its decision to keep some of its games on its own NFL Network in the face of criticism from some U.S. senators.
In a statement today, the NFL blamed cable system owners, not the league, for some fans’ inability to see some games.
“Our television policy regarding NFL Network games this season will be identical to the broadcast pattern we have followed for more than 20 years with our ESPN prime-time games,” the league said in the statement.
“The goal of our NFL Network games is to show them to a national audience. However, that goal has been undercut by several of the largest cable operators that are discriminating against our network by either refusing to carry it or placing it on a much more costly tier than the sports networks that the cable operators themselves own. These cable operators are denying their consumers fair access to this popular NFL programming,” the league added.
The NFL statement follows by a day a letter from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., and 12 other senators complaining about the return of the same problems with NFL games not being available to fans that emerged a year ago. Those problems were solved temporarily last year in a way that allowed the airing of a crucial New England Patriots-New York Giants game.
The league’s letter noted that some NFL games will be available mostly on the NFL Network starting Nov. 6.
The NFL in its statement today said the problems stem from cable providers’ failure to negotiate in good faith; it noted the Federal Communications Commission had already launched an inquiry into “discrimination” by cable providers.
“We continue to seek a negotiated agreement with Comcast, Time Warner and several other major cable operators so that our fans will not be deprived of our package of eight network games in the next two months,” the league said.
The league’s letter added, “Any help that Sen. Specter or his colleagues could lend to encourage Comcast or other cable operators to reach a fair agreement with us would be in the best interests of their constituents and our fans.”


  1. The NFL did not address the ISSUE. Cable is not free, no matter what package you have. By free, the Senators mean free over the air broadcast- signals that a regular old antenna can bring into the home. So folks with no satellite or cable can watch the game.
    The NFL has turned this into a ” feel bad for us because cable is screwing us” and that is NOT what it is all about. Nice try NFL

  2. I agree. The NFL completely missed the target on this one. The NFL should work to make the Thursday night package available OTA. They should also stop the exclusive deal they have with the satelite company and open their Sunday Ticket pacakage up. Maybe that would foster some good will in the Seanate.

  3. I have to disagree with both of the previous posts. The NFL has been on ESPN and/or TNT for the better part of two decades now, airing at least one game a week. They never used to get any complaints about that since both those networks were, and still are, carried by most, if not all, cable and satellite TV providers. I agree that NFL network needs to get coverage on lower tiers to be successful. Playing one game a week on the network for 8 weeks of the season is a good way to get people to watch the network. That is, if people get the network. To fix the issue, and until the network is carried by most cable outlets, they should make available a syndicated simulcast of the game to local TV outlets. Even though ESPN is carried nationwide, they even simulcast their Monday Night Football games on the local ABC stations if the local outlet so desires. Why can’t NFL network do this in the markets where the NFL network is not available? It’s a good stopgap move until the network’s carriage is better.

  4. What the NFL Network doesn’t get is channels that carry multiple sporting events are carried on expanded basic. ESPN airs more than football, baseball, etc. Versus shows various sporting events. Golf Channel is cheap and easy to add. NFL wants $.70/subscriber and it only carries one sport, football.
    While football maybe one of the more popular sports in America doesn’t justify its right to be on expanded basic when it is ok for NBA TV & NHL Network to get sport tier treatment.
    If the NFL Network wants on expanded basic they should lower the price they are wanting for the channel.
    They could make agreements to be on the basic digital tier but they want expanded cable. Them using the fans as an excuse is just a gimmick to me, they just want as much money from the subscribers as possible.

  5. NFL network should be treated the same as TBS and ESPN. If anyone can give me a good reason please let me know. The cable companies are playing hardball and will eventually lose because of the new technologies such as FIOS and U-VERSE.

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