No NFL Network is no problem for locals

Thursday, November 29
If the New England Patriots go 15-0, Berkshire County football fans won't need to find a satelite dish or a sports bar to watch the team's attempt to complete a perfect regular season.

The Dec. 29 game at Giants Stadium between the Patriots and the New York Giants was put in as part of a six-game package of regular-season games televised by the NFL Network — a network that is not on Time Warner Cable.

However, the cable television provider — either ESPN or in this case the NFL Network — contracts with one station in the home market of the NFL teams involved and permits that station to carry the broadcast over the air. Fortunately for interested football fans, the station in the Boston market that will carry the game is WCVB-TV.

Since WCVB is on Time Warner's cable system on channel 5, the game will be shown on that Saturday night.

"It is my understanding that WCVB will be carrying the Patriots-Giants game as this is an 'in-market' game as it relates to our Berkshire service area and WCVB," Peter Taubkin, vice president of Government Relations and Public Affairs for Time Warner Cable wrote in an e-mail. "Our New York service area is considered out-of-market as it relates to the (New York City) broadcast area, so while the game will be available in New York City, it will not be available to New York markets outside of the city."

That's the good news for area football fans. The not-so-good news comes tonight when the NFL Network has a marquee matchup featuring the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.

So if you don't live in Green Bay or Dallas, or you don't have a satelite dish and get the NFL Network, this game won't be seen.

And therein lies the controversy, with the NFL Network and several cable companies, including Time Warner, still at war.

"It's frustrating," said NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky, "because we have a product we know our fan base wants and we are unable to get it to them due to cable stonewalling."

Tonight's game and the remaining NFL Network games in 2007 are not the issues. The real issue is the seeming intransigence between the two sides.

The NFL Network's position is simple, as is that of Time Warner.

"They believe we should be a pay-extra channel," the NFL Network's Palansky said of Time Warner. "We believe it should be more strongly distributed than that."

Time Warner's Taubkin is equally emphatic in his side's opinion.

"As passionate as any sports fan can be, the NFL Network appeals to only a small segment of our customers on a year-round basis, and it is highly priced," Taubkin's e-mail continued. "We continue to believe that the most appropriate place for the NFL Network is on a sports tier, as other companies currently make it available. Carriage in this manner permits customers who want to watch the NFL Network to do so, but those who do not would not be forced to bear the costs associated with the NFL Network."

The NFL Network can be seen by 43.8 million households, up 10 percent from a year ago. According to the network, Time Warner is the only leading cable or satellite provider not carrying the NFL Network on a network's regular channel lineup.


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