NFLN, Comcast Square Off Tuesday

On the same day that the league will roll out the schedule of matchups for the 2009 football season, the NFL’s lawsuit season gets underway with a trial against cable giant Comcast.
Bob Fernandez of the Philadelphia Inquirer tells the tale of the tape for Tuesday’s brouhaha before the FCC regarding the placement of NFL Network among the Comcast collection of channels.
Citing a 1992 federal law that prohibits cable companies from giving preferred treatment to their own content, the league claims that Comcast favors products like Comcast-owned Versus and Golf over NFLN.
The two Comcast channels appear on the base package; to get NFLN, customers must order a separate sports package, at $7 extra per month.
“We are just being asked to be treated fairly — the same way they treat their own networks,” Steve Bornstein, president and chief executive officer of NFL Network, recently told Fernandez.  “The price is irrelevant.  It’s about distribution.”
NFLN likely will disappear entirely from the Comcast system as of May 1, since the league refuses to allow the network to continue to appear on the pay-only tier.  If/when the FCC rules in the NFL’s favor, the channel likely will return, as part of the basic package.
Meanwhile, no one is doing anything to force the cable companies or the satellite providers to allow consumers to decide which channels we want, and which we don’t.
It’s like going to a restaurant and being forced to buy the $20 breakfast buffet, when all we want is a $1.98 fruit cup and a $0.75 piece of toast.
So as these two giants prepare to duke it out, the more fundamental problem continues to be ignored.  We should all be permitted to purchase only the channels that we want.

53 responses to “NFLN, Comcast Square Off Tuesday

  1. The NFL network is horrible. Just cancel it and save yourselves some money. Whoever is running it must be a moron.

  2. “So as these two giants prepare to duke it out, the more fundamental problem continues to be ignored. We should all be permitted to purchase only the channels that we want.”
    Well said Florio, its amazing how Comcast has been to get away with this crap for years. It’s a shame that the NFLN most likely will not be available to Comcast customers.

  3. “It’s like going to a restaurant and being forced to buy the $20 breakfast buffet, when all we want is a $1.98 fruit cup and a $0.75 piece of toast.”
    Then go eat somewhere else. If you don’t like what they are serving move on down the road. The cable company in my area doesn’t carry NFL Network which caused me and many other I know to switch to Directv. Best move I ever made.


  5. I am a full blown proponent of A La Carte Programming. If not for my wife, I’d only watch about 15 channels.

  6. Comcast is garbage. I switched to a rival the rhymes with “Swish Getwork,” for this reason alone. I had the NFLN on my base package, then one day, I turn it on the hear Warren Sapp’s insightful commentary, and “poof,” it had magically disappeared. When I was told it would be an extra $8 month, I called my current provider and switched that day.
    I can’t be the only one out there miffed by Comcast’s “Bait & Switch” tactics.

  7. Be careful what you wish for. Ala carte cable programming will make the $7 per month for the Comcast sports tier look like a bargain.

  8. Florio,
    While I think we’d all agree that we should be permitted to purchase channels ‘a la carte’, I don’t think that’s the main issue that’s being ignored here. There is a very simple reason why we are subjected to QVC, Food Network, Golf, or whatever other channel we don’t want, yet can’t get NFLN. Those channels charge pennies to the cable companies, while NFLN reportedly wants to charge ESPN-level prices!!!
    Of course, Comcast doesn’t want to put NFLN on the sports tier to “protect the customer”, we all know that’s B.S. But the bottom line is if NFLN charged a reasonable fee it would be on basic. Comcast should just make public what NFLN wants to charge vs. other channels and I think the public would flood the NFL with calls complaining instead of their cable provider.
    Oh, and if the NFL wants Comcast to budge…let them carry Sunday Ticket, if they’re willing to pay the same as DirecTV for it. That exclusive contract is crap.

  9. When you buy a magazine, or newspaper do you only buy the sections that are your favorites?
    If customers could buy only the channels they want, a lot of channels would cease to exist…will you be willing to pay for channels that you watch only a few times per week?
    Other channels, with high costs but limited appeal, like NFLN, would cost subscribers much more than they do now.
    When you have to start paying $5.00 – $10.00 a month per channel, how many can the average Joe afford to watch.

  10. Comcast is the absolute worst! The management that I’ve dealt with are uninterested at most. I’d like to see them go under…WITH NO BAILOUT HELP!

  11. AHHH!! To have Ala carte programming choices. If it were only true
    then in my house you would never again see the idiotic round-the-clock
    religous snake-oil salsemen begging for money…

  12. I live in the philly area. I have directv. Since 1997, comcast has refused to allow local satellite systems to broadcast the Sixers and Flyers games. They are completely unavailable for satellite users. I think it’s time that comcast is brought to task for their actions over the last decade. Too numerous to list, smoke filled room deals, a wink and a nod, a secret handshake. This network needs to wake up. Kudos to Florio for keeping this on the front burner.

  13. Take a moment to scroll through all the channels you receive via cable/ satellite, and you’ll see several dozen which you will never watch. How many shopping networks can they create? How many Spanish and Asian language channels must we pay not to watch? I’d have no problem paying $5 or $10/channel for A La Carte, it would save me money. Comcast has enjoyed a monopoly for decades and its time to enforce the law.

  14. Comcast doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the court case. The NFL is only about fifty times more popular than golf is, but they broadcast the golf channel because they own it.

  15. @jpeezy55:
    You’re wrong. It’s a matter of costs. All things being equal, Comcast would be discriminating. But all things are NOT equal. Comcast can compare its cost of carrying NFLN vs its cost of carrying the Golf Channel and justify its decision as an economic one. For further comparison, they can roll out viewer statistics for NFLN vs other channels who charge what NFLN wants to charge, and show that the fee NFLN wants to chagre is unreasonably high.

  16. here’s a thought…. don’t buy Comcast… buy fios or satellite.
    Doesn’t Comcast reserve the right to sell packages the way they want? I thought that was free enterprise.

  17. KILLER FINS FAN says:
    April 13th, 2009 at 9:27 am
    Until it gets cloudy out.

  18. Look at the Big Picture! The NFLN wants to force Comcast’s hand.
    Comcast could care less about it’s customer’s!
    We, the consumer is taking another one for the team…
    I agree with the programming lacking somewhat. They have good shows this time of year, Senior Bowl, Combine and the draft.
    Is it a coincidence, or does NFLN know they have decent numbers
    this time of year?
    I pay the 7 bucks, I watch the Network. This sounds like, “We are from the government and we’re here to help you!” By taking away the NFLN, that is helping me get the NFLN for free???
    I was born at night, but not last night!

  19. This is extremely frustrating to me since my town has an exclusive deal with Comcast. No AT&T U-Verse or Wide Open West. I would get DirecTV, however, my townhouse association does not allow the dish. I have absolutely no options here.

  20. The NFL is the villain here and only the imbiciles here who don’t understand basic economics and let their judgement be clouded by their overdeveloped emotional attachment and misplaced loyalty to the NFL think otherwise. The NFL is charging Comcast as if NFLN is a premium channel (the programming suggests otherwise) yet they want Comcast to broadcast it at a loss. Maybe Florio should follow his own advice as regards his “day job”. So that his legal “customers” might benefit most, I think that he should only charge $50/hour for his legal services, even though the opportunity cost to him is much greater. OK, bad example, since Florio’s legal services probably aren’t worth $50/hour. But you get the point.

  21. Ala Carte programming will end up costing everyone far more than they currently pay. You’re not thinking this through, Florio. Bundling channels allow all of them to be cheaper. The Senate looked into this 5 years ago, and came away realizing that forcing ala carte on cable systems would screw up everybody.
    I don’t expect knucklehead sports fans to understand it, but you’re a lawyer. Ala Carte programming would also put an end to the rich variety of specialty, cultural, and niche programming, especially to minorities, and in the long run, give everyone much less choices than we have now. Plus, we’d pay a lot more for them.
    Small channels would have no viable business model and disappear, making all of us that much less rich. The dumbing down of America. Only the 20 or so most popular channels currently available would survive, financially. And we’d pay through the nose for those 20 channels.
    If people want NFLN that badly, then get DirecTV and shut the flip up about it. End of story.

  22. why does the NFL refuse to let Comcast keep the channel on the sports package? If people want the channel, they’ll pay for it. They also don’t allow the cable companies to have the Sunday Ticket.
    The NFL is a piece of work. I purchased the sports package because of the NFLN and really only watch it for the football games (3x a year). The rest of the programming is garbage. I won’t miss it come 5/1/09. I will even keep the package because as college football comes around, I get to watch an extra 3 – 4 college games a week. Screw the NFL.

  23. drslick —
    “This is extremely frustrating to me since my town has an exclusive deal with Comcast. No AT&T U-Verse or Wide Open West. I would get DirecTV, however, my townhouse association does not allow the dish. I have absolutely no options here.”
    Not so, drslick. Your townhouse association has no legal leg to stand on. Unless you live in an Historic Building, deemed so by a preservationist society, they cannot stop you. Take them to court, and you could end up with enough damages to pay for your DirecTV for at least a decade.
    Call a lawyer. It will be an easy case for him or her.
    As directed by Congress in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (“OTARD”) rule concerning governmental and nongovernmental restrictions on viewers’ ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites (“DBS”), broadband radio service providers (formerly multichannel multipoint distribution service or MMDS), and television broadcast stations (“TVBS”).
    The rule (47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000) has been in effect since October 1996, and it prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming. The rule applies to video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37″) in diameter (or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule prohibits most restrictions that: (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.
    Effective January 22, 1999, the Commission amended the rule so that it also applies to rental property where the renter has an exclusive use area, such as a balcony or patio.

  24. They’re BOTH flat-out wrong! The NFL should take what it can get and sue, sue, sue … and not use fans as pawns by its sanctimonious position regarding a $7 per month charge. The NFL is being inconsistent when they pay jillions guaranteed team receipts to the union. The fans loose again. And Comcast? They must be reined in by Congress. I can tell you the Cables have super powerful K Street lobbies. Comcast uses our bucks to keep its publicly sanctioned monopoly. The FCC? Well … here all these so-called tough laws restricting ownership of media – papers and radio – and the FCC protects Comcast so it can own all channels.

    Until it gets cloudy out. ”
    So you’re saying that you’ve never had DirecTV… or that your dish needs to be realigned, at least.

  26. “Those channels charge pennies to the cable companies, while NFLN reportedly wants to charge ESPN-level prices!!! ”
    Interesting. You are aware that you can get ESPN and ESPN2 with Comcast’s expanded basic package, right?

  27. “Comcast doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the court case. The NFL is only about fifty times more popular than golf is, but they broadcast the golf channel because they own it. ”
    Have you checked how much golf costs to produce vs. what the NFL wants? That’s their leg to stand on.
    For once, the cable company isn’t the bad guy here. The NFL wants to force Comcast to pay the price they want, and they want to force Comcast to buy it for all their subscribers. I’d like to run a business that way. I’d show up to your door, tell you my product costs $100 each, and tell you that you have to buy 1000 of them.
    Of course, if the NFL wants to drop the price of the NFL network to a cost equal to the things Comcast *does* give away for free, then they’ll have a case. Until then, Comcast’s defense is simple: none of the single-sport networks we put on basic is that expensive.

  28. “The NFL is charging Comcast as if NFLN is a premium channel (the programming suggests otherwise) yet they want Comcast to broadcast it at a loss.”
    That’s not true. The NFL doesn’t care if Comcast raises it’s rates, and Comcast is free to cut off as many of the pennies-per-subscriber channels like CSPAN8 and SlapdickTV that nobody watches to make up the difference.

  29. Did you just become aware of “bundling”, Florio? This has been the cable company model for, ummm well, forever. Glad you just caught up- some have been on this issue for quite a while.
    For a very typical Comcast-type argument and justification of this model, see the post of “badknee”.
    Of course, these companies would like us to just take this explanation at face value as gospel. “Trust us, bundling is the MOST effective pricing model for you, the customer.” Of course, these companies would *never* make an argument simply because it’s best for their bottom line. No, they’d never do that.

  30. I find it interesting that so many fans are clamoring for a la carte channels, when the NFL is doing everything they possibly can to stop it.
    In a sense, the whole “sports tier” thing was a significant step toward ala carte…..only those customers who want the additional sports programming pay for the extra channels.
    Meanwhile, the NFL would prefer to pull the plug altogether rather than operate in an ala carte-type format. They want a spot on the basic tier so that NFLN programming fees will be a piece of every customer’s monthly bill….even if they don’t watch it.

  31. I have Comcast & the only thing bad about it is the fact that I can’t watch my NFL Network! So, I am going to switch to DISH Network because they have just recently agreed to a settlement with the NFL Network. From what I read about it, the two sides agreed to a multi-year deal meaning that I will get to watch my NFL for a very long time. :))

  32. rayg’s post above about the downside to a la carte programming is right on the mark. It sounds like a good idea on the surface until you break down the numbers. You’d end up getting a small, small fraction of the service you get now for the same price. I’m not saying Comcast doesn’t suck, it drives me nuts as much as the next guy. But you have to look at it on a macro scale, you’d pay much more with a la carte. And to everyone who says, “oh I’d only buy 7 or 8 channels, I would be paying less with a la carte,” I don’t believe you. You and I both know you’re not going back to life before your 300 channels.
    This whole thing is a shame, but I’d be more upset if I thought NFLN had anything worth watching. I’d pay $7 a month if you could promise me I’d never have to listen to Deion Sanders.

  33. Comcast is not the bad guy…it is the NFL network (or, the NFL). Why should we have to buy the crappy DIrect TV package to receive the Sunday ticket? This should be available to everyone. Who cares about the NFL network? Sure, I would like to see it on Comcast’s basic tier but it is the games I want. Quit doing those dumb exclusive deals NFL network and you probably won’t have these issues.

  34. This is a symptom of a bigger problem. I can’t believe that any of us would not be willing to pay a couple of more dollars each month if we could select ALL our stations AL CARTE (sp?). Do I really need QVC,HSN,SNBC? The only time i stop there is after a championship to see what over price stuff they are selling
    Fox,MSNBC, CNN, HLN, CNBC, FOXBUSINESS… Do I need this much information over load.
    Let me pick what I want and trash the rest

  35. The way cable companies operate is about as shady as any dirty industry in operation today. They approach a municipality, bid to be the exclusive provider to that area and once the deal is in place there is little consumers can do. Cable companies hold monopolies over local municipalities. No other cable providers can compete after the bidding process.
    Often times the bidding process includes kick backs and under the table deals to the government officials involved in the negotiations. And the reason we never heard about this is pretty simple since many news outlets are owned by the cable/media conglomerates. Uh Oh, I may have said too much, Time Warner may shut off my internet.
    The simple solution is to switch to a Satellite provider if you can.

  36. I heard Comcast has secured an exclusive deal with “PFTV” for broadcast rights through 2011. It will then move the channel to it’s Super-Deluxe-Ultra-Diamond Sports tier once viewers get hooked and charge $40/month for the upgrade.
    Congrats Florio, you stand to make quite a bit of money.

  37. I bailed on Comcast for DirecTV years ago.
    I get more channels and better service for less money and that includes the NFL network.
    Customers hyperventilating…
    Hours on the phone still waiting…
    Service calls that go unanswered…
    Talk to one jerk then get transferred…
    No NFL and no Starz channel…
    Pay their fees or take it anal…
    You can bitch, complain and mumble…
    At least you won’t see Bryant Gumble…

  38. I laugh at the idiots from Philadelphia who are bitching about Comcast keeping exclusive rights to Comcast Sportsnet (which they dont BTW, you can get it on FiOS) and yet they have no issue with DirecTV keeping exclusivity of the NFL Sunday Ticket. Comcast’s reaction with CSN was in direct response to Tagliabue sub-marining the cable companies after they promised them they’d be able to bid on Sunday Ticket a few years ago. If it’s not already apparent to anyone with a brain, the NFL has quite an interesti n DirecTV.
    As for the people wondering what the subscriber fees are, those are readily available. NFL wants $1.75 per month per subscriber to be on the baasic cable tier. NFL and Comcast did an independent market survey based on demand, viewership of NFL and found that $.83 was the appropriate price, and yet the NFl ignored it and still demanded the $1.75

  39. I have to echo earlier comments about DirecTV — thank goodness for satellite television. When my only complaint is that they don’t have ESPNU in HD, I think things are going alright.

  40. The NFL are fools if they think that position will help them, their exclusive rights contract is going to kill them if they make an argument about distribution fairness. They are far too used to getting their own way and I certainly hope Comcast wins because the last thing we need is to encourage the NFL to continue to abuse their monopoly.

  41. Comcast s**ks, but the NFL is WORSE. Why? Because they are trying to extort from your cable bill, arguing that every man, woman and child wants it and will play for it, even though most don’t watch it.

  42. I had Direct TV years ago…No HD TV signal back then.
    It was OK, except when it snows! Unfortunately for me and other New Englanders, it snows every other day!!! There’s only 1 thing that frustrates me more than not getting a channel, and that’s when the Dish has snow in it and you can’t get the damn signal!!!!
    1. I pay Comcast extra for NFLN!
    2. NFLN wants a broader coverage, basic package.
    3. Not because it’s better for the fans, it’s better for advertising dollars. You can charge more for commercials! Bigger audience..
    4. The average Fan gets screwed again. Pats fans twice! Comcast, Specter and that whole mess!
    5. The NFL is at a cross-road here. Cutting the signal to Comcast helps who? Nobody! That’s the insane compremise. Put us on the basic package or else we’ll turn off the signal! WTF Dude, do we have kindergartners running the show! Goodell not everybody falls into the players conduct policy! Punishing Comcast like thier part of the league is foolish and serves no one. We’re just the people footing the bill…
    6. I suggest you two kids work it out, or you’ll both lose!

  43. I love your idea of choosing the channels you want. I only watch a handful of cable channels but I’m forced to pay for all of them.

  44. I am a comcast customer in Jacksonville, and a black bar blocks off much of the top of the screen.This happens just on NFL network and all of the other channels work just fine. I am thinking that comcast is doing this on purpose to keep their viewers from seeing the “” ticker going across the screen. I called comcast service, which sucks anyway, and they said they couldn’t do anything. If comcast is doing this is it legal?

  45. Why not just go old school? Your basic channels. Instead of these so called fancy(HA-HA) channels. That you have to pay extra for. That is the way we used to watch football. Before everyone wanted more money for themselves.

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