Comcast was set to stop carrying the NFL Network May 1, but messaged customers shortly after the date declaring that the parties were close to a deal. Now Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reports negotiations are now at the goal line.
The greed-mongering cable giant and the greed-mongering network have tangled for much of NFL Network’s 6-year life. To quickly summarize, Comcast only wanted to include the network in its cable packages if it could gouge customers for more money by elevating it to an extra-pay tier. The NFL wants its network to be included in the basic digital packages, and has angered fans by sequestering some of its own regular-season games to air on the channel.
Now it looks like the NFL Network will get its way, although who knows what concessions the league had to make to get Comcast to play nice.
NFL Network had been carried on a pay sports tier for Comcast’s 24-million subscribers, and the NFL for years has been arguing its channel should be on the regular digital cable package with the ESPNs and CNNs of the cable TV world. Now that is close to happening. The deal would mean that instead of paying about $7 per month for the channel and other pay-TV sports channels, Comcast subscribers will get NFL Network with its regular digital package — and it will increase the number of TV homes the Network is seen in from about 35 million to close to 50 million. More importantly, it could well pave the way for the NFL to make deals with other cable companies similarly chapped at the league’s demand for huge rights fees for a sports channel with only 24 hours of NFL regular-season game programming per year.
So the word wars and lawsuits were all just foreplay. Yes, this is a Hollywood-style hate-kiss we have on our hands.