NFL Net responds to senators' criticism

Says it is following a policy that it has had for two decades

NEW YORK -- The NFL Network pushed back Wednesday against a letter from a Pennsylvania senator who criticized the league for showing games on the channel.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and a dozen other senators slammed the NFL's policy of excluding viewers from games that are shown on the NFL Network and hoped that the league would put that late-season primetime package onto free TV instead. The NFL Network is available, mostly via premium sports tiers, in a relatively small amount of U.S. TV households.

The NFL said that it was following a TV policy that it has had for the two decades games have been in primetime on ESPN, first on Sundays and now on Mondays.

"That same television policy makes the NFL the only league that has all of its regular season and playoff games on free TV, including our limited number of cable games that are also televised on free TV in participating markets," the NFL said Tuesday.

The senators' letter said that the model should be what happened in December 2007, when the last game of the season between the undefeated New England Patriots and eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants went from being an NFL and local-only game to nationally televised status. But the NFL said that the league has been "undercut by several of the largest cable operators that are discriminating against our network by either refusing to carry it or placing it on a much more costly tier."

Those networks include Comcast, based in Specter's home state, as well as Time Warner Cable. Earlier in November, the FCC ruled the NFL had made a prima facie case against Comcast and sent it to an adminstrative law judge for review after Comcast put the NFL Network on a higher sports tier behind its own owned sports channels. It said that it was interested in getting deals with the MSOs to put those eight games in front of as wide an audience as possible.

"Any help that Senator Specter or his colleagues could lend to encourage Comcast or other cable operators to reach a fair agreement with us would be in the best interests of their constituents and our fans," the NFL said.
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