It's Back To Court For The NFL And Comcast

An appeals court has kicked the Comcast, NFL dispute back down the lower courts where the two companies will have to start all over again in their dispute over whether or not Comcast can offer the NFL network on a special “sports tier.”

The NFL says they must offer the channel on basic cable or not at all.

Comcast says they can do whatever they damn well please because they are the cable company and the NFL channel is the NFL channel.

Consumers just wish they’d work it out.

From Sports Illustrated:

The appeals court said the contract language between Comcast and the network were too “ambiguous” to rule in favor of either side.

The NFL sued Comcast in October 2006 after the cable company told the NFL that it had decided to move the network from a regular digital tier that is seen by seven million viewers to a sports tier with about 750,000 viewers.

Better work it out soon, boys. We don’t want to miss one second of the Neckbeard quarterback rivalry. Sigh.

NFL, Comcast headed back to court [SI] (Thanks, Ferio!)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


Edit Your Comment

  1. sleze69 says:

    Blah…who cares about the NFL network. I am siding with Comcrap on this one.

    Now if we were discussing the Sunday Ticket going to cable, that WOULD be news.

  2. Moosehawk says:

    You think it would make sense that NFL Network was in the sports tier.

  3. llcooljabe says:

    Does anyone know if there is any contractual language that the NFL is using as a basis for this claim?

  4. GearheadGeek says:

    @llcooljabe: From my understanding (most of my info is from a friend who’s an exec with Time Warner) Comcast has some sort of unusual pre-existing contract with the NFL that Comcast interprets as allowing them to do this. Any new contracts the NFL signs would require the cable companies to put the NFL Network in the extended-basic tier and pay the NFL based on total number of subscribers rather than people who actually give a damn about the mostly-useless NFL channel.

    There’s absolutely no way I’d ever be on the NFL’s side on this one, I don’t want to pay for the stupid channel, but someone else certainly does, so it only makes sense for it to be in a subscription sports tier.

  5. Underpants Gnome says:

    I’m an NFL fan (Go Neckbeard!) , but even I agree with comcast here. The NFL network belongs on the sports teir, along with the big ten network, the regional sports channels etc. While they’re at it, they should also create a home shopping tier, a kids channel tier, a nerd tier, and a tier for those 3 channels that show law & order 24 hours a day. Or just give us a-la-carte channel selection.

    Who am I kidding? I’d be happy if comcast could just make my internet connection stay active for more than 3 days at a time.

  6. evslin says:

    I’d still like to know why the NFL thought it was ok for Cox to put the NFLN on their sports tier, but it’s not ok for Comcast to do the same thing.

  7. savvy999 says:

    I’m in the NFL’s corner here. Only because I love football and I want everyone else to pay for it. I was hoping Comcast would lose, and that would mean they’d have to carry the B10 Network on basic too.

    While in the larger scope it seems that Comcast should have the ability to line up or bundle channels however they want, Comcast is still full of BS when it talks about ‘choice’ or ‘fairness’ some other word that means nothing. When I get the ‘choice’ to not have QVC or Home Shopping Network, or Trinity, or 100s of other garbage channels that I didn’t ask for (and replace them at no charge for what I do want– football!) then they can come eat at the grownups table.

  8. Bay State Darren says:

    A little off-topic, has Comcast responded to their recent seat-filling scandal? I have been dying to hear them try to spin that bullshit.

    Meg, thank you for not topping this post with a Pats-bashing photo.

  9. crabbyman6 says:

    Hate to say it but I’m with Comcast on this one too. Its their cable, they can do what they like. While a-la-carte would be the best way to get cable I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Soon I won’t have to worry about it though, the NFL Channel comes with Verizon Fios TV anyway. So long Comcast!!

  10. ghnvt says:

    Where is Arlon Spector??

  11. zarex42 says:

    The NFL channel owns the content, and can make whatever damn terms they want when *permitting* Comcast to air their shows. Comcast doesn’t have any right whatsoever to demand anything from the NFL.

  12. ivanthemute says:

    Actually, this is probably one of the only times you’ll see a cable provider actually pulling for the majority of their subscribers. I know Time Warner is in the same boat on this one, and a TWC employee who’s my neighbor explained it to me. Apparently the NFL wants it included in every subscriber’s basic or extended basic plan at a rate of approximately $1.75 a month, but it’s pricey for what is essentially a seasonal channel. Considering that TWC’s marketing department determined that only 20-25% of their subs would even watch it, they didn’t want to screw upwards and over 15 million folks out of their buck and three quarters. Instead, they would put it in their sports tier, and raise the rate of that tier by only 25 cents as an offset (that tier costs $5.25 or there abouts and has a fair profit margin which wouldn’t be affected much by eating the difference.)

  13. zentec says:


    Exactly. And the NFL has no expectation of anything on someone else’s cable system.

    This could easily go away if people were allowed to buy exactly what they wanted to watch rather than subsidizing channels that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day. The “diversity” argument is nonsense in this day and age because that content can be obtained in many other ways aside from broadcasting it on a cable system. You want concert highlights of Estonian cabbie rustling? Great; rent the DVD from Netflix, buy it on iTunes, download it from Babach the Cabbie’s web site, stream it on Joost. The world is your oyster, please quit asking me to pay for it.

  14. vastrightwing says:

    Comcast, dump the NFL, few care. Let the NFL start their own network and charge what they want.

    I think “broadcast” TV is going the way of CDs and will soon be a distant memory.

  15. Sick_N_Tired says:

    I have to say, I love the NFL and side with NFL network on this one. It is like ESPN. Should ESPN be only on a sports tier?

    NFLN may focus on football but its not just a channel showing games, there is a lot of live programming every day and football isn’t seasonal; there is the combine, the draft, mini camps…there used to be NFLEurope… Comcast charges foolish amounts of money for its cable; I have comcast internet and phone and STILL use DirecTV for my TV.

    BTW, I get NFL Network free as part of my basic $44.99 package. NO SPORTS TIER REQUIRED. I get Big 10 channel too. But NHL network is only with the pay tier. Thats fine as long as VS stays free for when the America’s Cup races are on…

  16. zarex42 says:


    Actually, the NFL can very well dictate the terms of the broadcast. It’s 100% their content, and they told Comcast to either handle it the NFL’s way, or stop broadcasting the network. The NFL has every right to do this, and Comcast has no leg to stand on. Comcast can always just refuse to carry the station, but that’s the only recourse they legitimately have. Going to court over this is ridiculous.

  17. cde says:

    @zarex42: How can you say that without knowing what the contract between the nfl and comcast is. The contract can be “Comcast can do any damn thing they want as long as they pay us and don’t use the channel’s material outside of advertising.”

  18. t-r0y says:

    @zarex42: From what I understand (I’m no expert), the dispute began when the NFL raised the rate from 20 cents per subscriber to 70 cents (or more). Comcast says that their contract allows them to move to a paid tier if a price change occurs, but the NFL disputes this. So, there IS an existing contract, but Comcast and the NFL (neither of which are looking out for the subscribers) can’t agree on what they agreed to.

  19. lasereric41 says:

    As much as I enjoy the NFL and football, I have to side with Comcast on this one. I don’t even have the option to get Comcast in my area (from what I hear, I’m lucky), but the only reason the NFL is so up in arms over this is because they lose a few viewers, which makes their revenue from advertising and everything else drop. Considering the value of the programming on that channel (typically not worth watching unless you’re really really bored), I can’t blame Comcast for bumping it up a tier. I highly doubt they will lose customers simply because of the NFL Network. Let their service handle that!