NFL Network Asks Cablevision: Hey, Where's Our Binding Arbitration?

During its ongoing staring contest with NewsCorp over carriage fees, Cablevision has repeatedly asked the broadcaster to enter into binding arbitration. This apparently has the folks at the NFL Network wondering why Cablevision isn’t so eager to sit down at the arbitration table with them.

Cablevision is one of the few pay-TV carriers that don’t currently carry the NFL Network, which means those subscribers won’t be able to watch Thursday night NFL games on the league’s official channel when they start Nov. 11.

(NOTE: Please keep in mind that the following quote and story first appeared as an exclusive in the NY Post, a newspaper owned by Cablevision foe NewsCorp.)

The Post quotes an NFL Network insider as saying, “Cablevision has been urging Fox to agree to binding arbitration — the same strategy we’ve been offering Cablevision — but we continue to get sacked.”

The NFL Network’s official position, set forth in a letter from the channel’s head to Cablevision CEO James Dolan, is a little less metaphoric:

“I’m encouraged to hear that Cablevision supports binding arbitration and would recommend that approach in our own discussions with you for carriage of NFL Network… This is an ideal opportunity for both of our organizations to come to mutually agreeable terms for carriage.

A rep for Cablevision gave Consumerist the following statement about the NFL Network situation:

This has nothing to do with broadcast network retransmission consent and if the NFL was serious about getting its network on Cablevision, it would make us a proposal for the NFL Sunday Ticket, a service the NFL only offers to a satellite competitor.

Do you think Cablevision is being hypocritical by asking NewsCorp to enter into binding arbitration while not heeding the NFL Network’s request for the same?

NFL’s Cable Play [NY Post]

Comments

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  1. Darrone says:

    I think we are going to see these “we are pulling our content off your network” fights until the content providers figure out a more effective way of monetizing. Binding arbitration is not a solution.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    This is just two greedy entities fighting for a larger slice of an already too big pie.

    • kc2idf says:

      Yes.

      I think a new system needs to be put into place, modeled after telephone service (and in some places, such as New York, power and gas service, also).

      The deal is this:

      First, you divide the organizations into carriers and sources. I would go a step farther than we do with telephone service, to where we are with power, and dictate that any given corporation may be one, or the other, but never both. By this, I mean they can’t even provide their own PPV service, but they can provide an interface into one operated by someone else.

      Next, the carriers (Time-Warner, Cablevision Systems, Adelphia, Comcast, Dish Network, DirecTV, etc) will charge you, the customer, a basic rate for service. This should be a high enough rate to cover the carrier’s costs and make them a profit.

      From there, using the carrier only as an interface, you subscribe to individual channels or packages of them from the providers.

      On your final bill, you will see a charge for delivery, which goes to the carrier; and you will see a charge from News Corp for Fox and co., and you will see a charge from Turner, and so on. If someone raises their rate, you, as their direct customer, take it up with them, and choose to keep or toss them for yourself.

      The practical upshot of all of this is that the carrier will not get into this sort of dispute, because the carrier isn’t negotiating the price, and therefore not holding up the closing of a deal. That’s the customer’s decision: take it or don’t.

      Couple of final details . . .

      A provider may decide that a channel is free. If it is free, then that is it: it is free. Since one may conclude that the broadcast airwaves constitute a carrier with no delivery charge, this, by extension means that all broadcast channels are free, and that any carrier may include them. This would prevent any sort of dispute between Fox and {insert provider here} from taking the Fox stations away.

      Lastly, each provider must offer the same deal to all customers, regardless of carrier, however, I think for purely practical reasons, a carrier may choose not to carry a provider or vice-versa.

      Although this will never happen, I’d like to hear ideas on where this concept might go wrong.

      • vastrightwing says:

        I love your idea, but it won’t see the light of day until people start dropping their cable TV. I also had an idea like this, it’s very similar to electricity: you pay for the infrastructure and then for the power.

        Problem is the content providers are making money hands over fists using the current model. The model you’re suggesting gives too much control over to consumers. This is incompatible with the provider’s current model. Providers use the carrier (cable company) as a middle man and isolate themselves from the consumer. This makes it easy for the providers to negotiate with the carriers, who pass the costs to the consumers. No, I don’t see your suggesting working for a few more years until consumers start leaving cable for good. Then problem then is the media consuming patterns of consumers start to change and then the providers have nothing to offer consumers.

        I think CableVision should hold firm and not back down. I also think FOX should hold firm and not back down.

  3. seth_lerman says:

    Has “NFL Network” ever been carried on on Cablevision? If not it’s not the same thing as the FoxCablevision issue. One is a contract negotiation (or more specifically a re-negotiation), the other is “We don’t want to carry that new channel at this time” vs. “We want to be shown to your subscribers”.

  4. ThatGuyGreg says:

    The NFL Network is a useless turd that nobody would notice was gone if not for the high-profile games they hijack toward the end of the season.

    No binding arbitration b/c Cablevision has no need for the channel. Done.

    • craptastico says:

      it’s actually a great channel if you like football, particularly in the offseason leading up to the draft. if you don’t like football than obviously the channel offers you no more than Golf channel offers me, but there’s no reason for you to criticize it. i’m sure you pay for dozens of channels you’ll never watch.

  5. DanRydell says:

    I think Verizon would like to get in on that binding arbitration too. After years of fighting the FCC finally ruled in January that cable companies like Cablevision can’t withhold their terrestrial regional sports networks from other pay TV providers. Rather than let Verizon pay them to carry the MSG-HD channels, they spun off MSG into a separate company in February.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Not quite. The FCC ruling had nothing to do with MSG-HD. It concerned Comcast Sportsnet in Philly, and Cox’s sports channel in San Diego, neither of which were available to satellite at all.

      The FCC has _not_ mandated provision of HD networks.

      • DanRydell says:

        The FCC’s ruling was not limited to any specific provider, it applies to all providers who own regional sports networks. If Cablevision continued to own MSG and continued to withhold MSG-HD from Verizon, Verizon could have modified their complaint to the FCC to include the violation of the new rule. Cablevision spun off MSG as a separate company, so the new rule no longer applied. That allowed them to continue withholding MSG-HD which they would not have been able to do under the new FCC rule.

  6. Alvis says:

    Carrying Fox or not is a big deal. NFL Network, not so much.

    • apd09 says:

      The reason Fox is not on is partly because they refuse to give arbitration to Cablevision, the reason the NFL Network is not on is partly due to the refusal to give arbitration to the NFL Network.

      It is hypocritical, but I guess since NFL Network would probably demand a high per person rate Cablevision is not willing to pay what they want because they know binding arbitration might make them have to pay the higher rate. Whereas Cablevision knows that Fox will not try to overcharge them, so they want the binding arbitration to allow them to lock in a low rate because of the mass appeal of the station to a broader demographic than the NFL Network.

  7. AllanG54 says:

    I couldn’t give a hoot about the NFL network and if they want to have their own channel then give it out for free. Otherwise, you can’t force Cablevision to carry your network. What they’re afraid of I’m sure, is having Cablevision get a better deal than the other carriers. I’m a customer and frankly I pay enough for my services and don’t need more channels that I won’t watch. Let them make it an a la carte purchase like Playboy channel or on demand.

  8. Chuchundra says:

    The reason the NFL Network isn’t on Cablevision is because the NFL won’t let Cablevision (or any cable provider) offer the NFL Sunday ticket. Is the NFL going to put that issue up for arbitration as well?

    • headhot says:

      Well they offered it to Comcast for $1,000,000,000 who promptly passed. Thats a billion for those of you who don’t want to count zeros.

  9. klwillis45 says:

    Cablevision is not the only big-boy without NFLN. Time Warner & Charter don’t carry it either.

  10. RobHoliday says:

    I love the NFL (the game), but the NFL (the business) can kiss my @ss!!!! They are a bunch of money grubbing greedy business suits that are screwing fans to squeeze every last bit of money out of them!

  11. headhot says:

    Well I think the problem is that the NFL wants the NFL network in the basic or first tier lineup, and not as a play channel like HBO, then for kickers, they want something like $1 per subscriber that gets it.

    So if its inserted into the line up, lots of people will be getting it, even if very few watch, and Cablevision has to kick $1 per sub up to the NFL. That doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.

  12. alstein says:

    Next year the NFLN won’t matter, as there will likely be no season I believe.

  13. Mcshonky says:

    who cares?
    rich douches and their toys!!

  14. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    I won’t have to deal with these disputes because – I put up an antenna and stopped paying for TV!

    One area of free (Broadcast, OTA) TV that is sadly lacking, however, is live sports. Unfortunatly, so many people have been willing to pay outrageous prices to watch football, etc, that a lot of what used to be free is now only on pay tv. Monday Night Football? Its gone… unless you pay for it.

    I can see a day in the not too distant future when the World Series and Superbowl will be pay-per-view only. That’s really sad…

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Why is that sad? Perhaps when people stop paying so much attention to sports, they’ll start paying attention to things that *matter.*

      Like public health and safety issues, consumer protection, and any of the other hundreds of things not reported on adequately because people are too interested in sports and gossip.

  15. madmallard says:

    Anyone know who the arbiter is supposed to be?

  16. bravo369 says:

    Here’s the solution to all these problems. People need choice. We have products like slingbox and roku, boxee, etc. Make server farms of slingbox so that people can get any provider they want. If i am on east coast and want the west coast feed of shows because I don’t get home until 10pm est, i can do it with slingbox. I then send my money to the cable company in CA. I can shop around for the best prices, selection and features and save money in the process.

    • vastrightwing says:

      There is no technical challenge in being able to offer all providers a channel to every TV in the world: Satellite, cable, RF (over the air), TCP/IP, etc. The problem is the business model of the entertainment industry. They use carriers (cable companies and networks) to act as middlemen to the consumer. This avoids the nasty problem of competition and having to deal with consumer demand. This allows providers to dictate to the carriers, their demands and the consumer has only 2 choices: 1) pay or 2) not pay. I’ve selected option 2 (not pay). And as more and more people take option 2 (not paying), the industry will start floundering around and you will be hearing phrases like “we need to save the entertainment industry with our tax dollars.” By the time the industry realizes the money is starting to slow down, consumer entertainment consumption will have changed and then the industry won’t understand how to fix their business model. In short, this problem isn’t going to change in the near future. My suggestion is to get used to it and find an alternative way to entertain yourself. By the way, I hope CableVision won’t budge and I hope FOX won’t budge. They both deserve to win.

      • KeithIrwin says:

        Plus they’ll probably spend some time whining about how signal piracy or BitTorrent is to blame for their declining fortunes and trying to get absurdly draconian legislation shoved down everyone’s throat, if history is any guide.

    • rmorin says:

      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/10/25/prwebprweb4695024.DTL

      This is what you are talking about I think. The company offers individuals in other markets access to the local programming via the internet. Right now they offer local programming from Seattle and New York. Lets someone in Wyoming wants to see the New York Jets game on cbs but it isnt playing in their area they can use this service to get it for $4.99 a month. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out. Obviously does not effect the NFL network, but certain would for Sunday Ticket.

  17. Judah says:

    If the people in charge of the arbitration are not neutral, than I sure wouldn’t want to enter binding arbitration either.

  18. Torchwood says:

    DirecTV paid a lot of money for the exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket.

  19. ClaudeKabobbing says:

    They are all the devil and that is why I use netflix, and OTA.

  20. SgtBeavis says:

    I’m all for anything that breaks DirecTV’s lock on NFL Sunday Ticket..

  21. Recruita says:

    The NFL made an exclusive deal with DirecTV for the Sunday Ticket. The Sunday Ticket is the Jewel but they will not (nor cannot) offer it to Cablevision. As Cablevision stated they would be more than appy to enter into talks with the NFL if it included The Sunday Ticket. All the NFL wants to mediate is the lesser desireable product while denying access to the product that they’re really interested in. It’s a nice ploy on the part of The NFL but I guess Cablevision isn’t as dumb as they would want them to be.