Cablevision, NFL in new Rutgers war of words

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NEW YORK -- Cablevision and the NFL Network got into a new war of words Wednesday over whether the cable operator would carry the channel under the terms of a free preview beginning this weekend that would include hometown team Rutgers appearance in the Texas Bowl.

The NFL Network declared Wednesday afternoon that Cablevision had "turned down" its free preview. But in a statement Wednesday night, Cablevision denied that was true and said that it was willing to put the Dec. 28 game on a basic-cable channel (14) from 6 p.m. Dec 28 until the end of the post-game coverage.

Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge said in a letter to NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein that Cablevision would prefer if the Rutgers-Kansas State game were on broadcast TV.

"Obviously the key point of this exercise is to allow Rutgers fans to watch their team play in a bowl game," Rutledge wrote. "Cable customers should not be put in the middle of your ongoing and unrelated pursuit of carriage agreements."

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL Network said its offer was denied by Cablevision.

"We are very disappointed that Cablevision and the Dolan family have turned down (the) same free offer that we agreed to with Time Warner and other cable companies," the NFL Network said. "It is very unfortunate that Cablevision customers in New Jersey and New York will not see the Rutgers bowl appearance and the NFL Network."

Cablevision, on the other hand, had this to say through a company spokesman: "Dealing with the NFL Network is beginning to feel like dealing with Lucy and the football. We haven't turned down anything. What part of 'yes, we will carry the Rutgers game to 100% of our customers,' do they not understand?" The Cablevision statement referred to the long-running comic strip Peanuts, with Cablevision cast as Charlie Brown.

The NFL Network two weeks ago offered the license, beginning Sunday and running through Dec. 30, but with a catch: It had to be the entire channel 24/7. Both companies balked, with Time Warner Cable offering a digital tier that was initially rejected by the NFL Network. But after a weekend of thinking it over, the NFL Network and Time Warner Cable reached a deal over carrying the channel on the digital tier.
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