NFL Network, Comcast Close To Punting Carriage Dispute [Multichannel News]
The long-running dispute between the nation's largest cable operator and professional football may be coming to an end. Multichannel News reports that talks between Comcast and the NFL regarding the carriage dispute over the NFL Network may be resolved as soon as this week. The dispute centered around Comcast's decision to place the NFL Network on a sports tier, rather than offering it with their digital tier alongside other channels like Versus and the Golf Channel. The NFL had countered that the Comcast was favoring its own sports programming over the NFL Network and was retaliating against the NFL for retaining the rights to a package of NFL games instead of selling them to Comcast for Versus.
Comcast has maintained that the per-subscriber carriage costs of the NFL Network are much higher than channels that the NFL Network would like to accompany on the digital tier, and has indicated a willingness to consider moving the NFL Network off the specialty sports tier if those per-subscriber fees came down.
According to Multichannel News, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is personally participating in the negotiations.
It's no secret that many cable operators have had tumultuous relationships many programmers over carriage disputes. Sports is especially complex as players demand higher salaries which leads to a reaction all the way through the economic food chain. Not only do ticket prices rise, but television rights skyrocket.
Networks compete for league and team broadcast rights and then they need to charge cable and satellite distributors large increases to pay for those rights. Distributors are typically more willing to pay higher prices for sports rights if they can place those networks on a special tier that allows customers to choose to buy the network along with other similar programming not unlike what what Comcast has been doing with the NFL Network. Those networks prefer to be on the basic tier which gives them the most distribution.
I support a distributor's right to design tiers of service that give customers more choice. But that's not the same as supporting a government-mandated a-la-carte plan which I have argued here is bad for consumers in the long run.
If you love football, you have to love this network. I do. I'm looking forward to seeing the deal that Comcast strikes with the NFL, and I'm hopeful we can all move forward towards a relationship that responsibly gives our customers the sports programming they want at a reasonable price.