NFL: "You Can Have The Patriots Game If You Agree To Binding Arbitration." TWC: "Bite Me."

The NFL has offered Time Warner Cable the option of entering into binding arbitration in exchange for “free” access to the much-anticipated last regular season Patriots game after two U.S. Senators threated to reconsider the NFL’s anti-trust exemption if it didn’t make NFL Network games available to more viewers. Sadly for the NFL, Time Warner Cable has decided to decline this generous offer to screw themselves.

The NFL’s binding arbitration deal would have retroactively charged TWC for the game after the arbitration process was finished.

Time Warner Cable’s CEO Greg Britt wrote to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:

“As I’m sure you are aware, over the years we’ve been able to successfully reach agreements with hundreds of programming networks without the use of arbitration,” he wrote. “We continue to believe that the best way to achieve results is to privately seek a resolution and not attempt to negotiate through the press or elected officials.”

Meanwhile, a number of states, including Wisconsin, are trying to force the cable companies into arbitration against their will. From USAToday:

A vice president of the Green Bay Packers told the state Senate committee in Wisconsin that the channel’s exclusion from some major cable networks could spell the beginning of the end of the sport’s popularity.

“Sports die off when they are not broadly accessible to the fans,” Jason Wied said. “This is the start of that problem.”

Wied, along with the president of the NFL Network, spoke in support of a bipartisan bill that could require an arbitrator to resolve disputes between the network and cable companies.

The director of the Wisconsin Cable Communications Association, which represents Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, MediaCom and 25 other smaller providers, said the state should not interfere with negotiations in a free market and doing so may be unconstitutional.

Nice try, Packers. It’s not the cable companies, but the NFL’s own byzantine rules that prevent the entire state of Wisconsin from being a “home market” for the Packers. Games broadcast on the NFL network are simulcast on local broadcast stations in the team’s home market.

We love the NFL (obviously), but the fact remains that most people don’t want their cable rates raised year round to accommodate a small number of sports fans who enjoy watching out-of-market football— and the cable companies know it.

NFL offers arbitration to cable for NFL Network [USAToday]
(Photo:Paul Keleher)

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