The NFL Network Versus Cable Providers: Throwing a Penalty Flag on the Fans
Willamette Sports Law Journal, Vol. 7, p. 1
24 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2008 Last revised: 19 Jul 2010
Date Written: November 11, 2008
This Note proposes that the NFL Network work with the cable companies in order to provide coverage to consumers who choose to opt-in. In order to provide wide coverage, the cable companies need not offer the Network for free, but could implement a reasonable per-customer surcharge for NFL Network access based on the number of subscribers who opt to receive the service. Because the NFL charges seventy to eighty cents per subscriber, the proposed solution places less of a burden on consumers who are not interested in the NFL Network. If the NFL Network is placed on basic cable, then consumers-many who might have not the least interest in football or the NFL Network-will have to pay for the network, whether that want it or not. By placing a reasonable surcharge on NFL Network service-as opposed to including it on basic cable-the cable companies will be able to provide more personalized service without having to transfer unwanted costs to subscribers. People who want just the NFL Network in addition to their basic cable would be able to get it without paying for an entire sports package. Similarly, the NFL Network can also be included-as it currently is by some providers-in a sports package for those who want extensive sports coverage.
Part I of this article discusses the NFL's exemption from antitrust law as far as selling pooled rights to broadcasters and analyzes the NFL's contracts with Comcast, which have been one of the primary sources of the controversy between the parties. Part I also discusses the history and current state of the NFL's litigation with the cable companies to provide the reader with useful background. Part II develops the reader's understanding of the issues by discussing the various social and economic considerations at play, and some of the external pressures-from consumers, legislators, and commentators-that have played a part in this controversy. Part III suggests possible solutions and weighs the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.
Keywords: NFL Network, Comcast, Time Warner, Cable, Tiering, FCC, Litigation
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation