Many still on NFL Net sideline
EmptyThe NFL Network will kick off its primetime late-season package on Thanksgiving night, but it's not likely to have deals in place with three big cable systems nationwide.
The NFL Network is available in about 40 million homes, a remarkable number considering that it's only three years old. That includes deals with Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network and about 160 other cable companies. But it doesn't include Time Warner Cable, Cablevision or Charter.
And an NFL Network executive said during a conference call Tuesday that it probably wasn't going to change before Thanksgiving night's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos.
But NFL Network chief Steve Bornstein said he hoped that it would.
"I would tell you that I don't see that happening before the games, but I try to remain optimistic," he said. "Our dialogues are open with (Cablevision and Time Warner), but right now we're not getting a lot of traction."
For football fans in Los Angeles, New York and other markets nationwide, that means they won't be able to see the primetime Thursday-Saturday games that will be carried on the NFL Network over the next five weeks.
The Kansas City market, where Time Warner rules, won't get the NFL Network, but Thanksgiving's game and another one just before Christmas against the Oakland Raiders will be carried locally on broadcast TV.
Time Warner Cable has said it would like to carry the NFL Network but wants to put it on a sports tier so that it won't increase the rates for all of its customers.
Cablevision said it will continue to carry New York Jets and Giants games plus about 50 regular-season games involving other teams, almost all of them in high-definition.
"We would like to find a way to carry more out-of-market games as we have with baseball, basketball and hockey and not just the seven games offered by the NFL Network," Cablevision said Tuesday.
Bornstein said he believes the NFL Network is more of a value than just the eight games offered. He said it wasn't just a six-month network but is of value throughout the year.
Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth will call the first NFL Network game and most of the other ones; it will be Gumbel's first NFL appearance since 1981 as a studio host and since the 1970s as a play-by-play football announcer. Gumbel and Collinsworth called a practice game in August, and Gumbel called another test more recently in New York. Gumbel and others said they were confident that it would be a great broadcast.
"We've got a long way to get to that point," Gumbel said. "It's going to be a first effort (on Thanksgiving), and it's not going to be without its bumps and bruises."