NFL Network to file complaint with FCC against Comcast

Updated: April 17, 2008, 7:25 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- NFL Network is filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against cable TV giant Comcast in the latest legal wrangling between the two.

The network announced Thursday it had served Comcast with the required 10-day notice of its intent to file a complaint. NFL Network is accusing the nation's largest cable operator of discriminatory and anticompetitive treatment in violation of the Cable Act of 1992.

The two sides have been feuding over Comcast's decision to place NFL Network on a premium sports tier that customers must pay extra to receive. NFL Network sued Comcast in October 2006 over the move.

A judge initially ruled in Comcast's favor. In February, an appeals court reversed the ruling and sent the case back to the lower court, saying the language in the contracts between the two was too "ambiguous" to rule in favor of either side.

Comcast also filed a lawsuit against NFL Network in December, alleging that league officials' attempts to persuade customers to switch away from Comcast violated their contract.

NFL Network will contend in its FCC complaint that Comcast is engaging in discriminatory and anticompetitive conduct because it includes less-popular national sports channels it owns, Versus and Golf Channel, on a basic tier.

"Comcast has taken NFL Network away from millions of fans and placed it on a costly sports tier," NFL Network president and CEO Steve Bornstein said in a statement. "We don't believe that Comcast should charge consumers extra for our network while making sports channels it owns available to all viewers on a less-costly basis. After months of trying to get Comcast to negotiate fair treatment, we have been forced to turn to the FCC."

Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast's senior director for corporate communications and government affairs, said in a statement, "Comcast makes the NFL Network available to all of our customers on a tier of service that the NFL agreed to by contract. The NFL has immense power in the marketplace, yet it keeps running to the federal and state governments to try to force changes in the deal it freely accepted in negotiations with Comcast. The agreement we have to carry the NFL Network is pro-consumer. It allows us to place this expensive channel on a tier of service for those who wish to pay for it, not on a tier where everyone must pay for it."

NFL Network's lack of availability has become an especially contentious issue because of the eight live regular-season games a year it started airing in 2006. Members of Congress got involved in December when it appeared that many fans would not be able to watch a potentially historic game between the New York Giants and undefeated New England Patriots.

At the last minute, the NFL decided to simulcast the game on CBS and NBC.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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