SBD/Issue 43/Sports Media

Many Patriots Fans In New England Will Not See Tonight's Game

NFL Network tonight will broadcast its most high-profile game so far this season when the Jets and Patriots play for first place in the AFC East, and in accordance with league policy, "only fans in the Boston metropolitan area" and Manchester, New Hampshire, will be able to see the game simulcast on ABC affiliates, according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Even though the Patriots have "represented New England for nearly four decades," the NFL's "definition of the Patriots' home market will shrink" tonight, as the game will not be simulcast in markets such as Springfield, Massachusetts, Burlington, Vermont, or Hartford, where the Patriots almost moved in '99. Comcast, which carries NFL Net on a premium tier, controls about 80% of Massachusetts, 50% of Vermont and 60% of Hartford, while Time Warner Cable (TWC), which does not carry the network, "dominates in Portland, Maine." NFL Exec VP/Communications & Public Affairs Joe Browne said, "If Comcast wasn't discriminating against us we wouldn't be having this discussion." But Comcast Senior Dir of Corporate Communications & Government Affairs Sena Fitzmaurice said that the NFL was "pitting one group of Patriots fans against another." Fitzmaurice: "The rest of the year they are the New England Patriots, but this week they are the Boston Patriots." Futterman notes WCVB-ABC in Boston and WMUR-ABC in Manchester last week, "at the NFL's direction," ordered Comcast to black out tonight's game "for some 300,000 households in New England with cable packages that retransmit those stations on systems outside" the Boston and Manchester markets. But Comcast has "refused," asserting that neither the NFL nor ESPN "demanded such action" for the Oct. 20 Broncos-Patriots "Monday Night Football" telecast (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/12).

GAP COVERAGE: In Maine, Rachel Lenzi writes under the header, "Pats' Game On Television Is All But Drawing A Blank." Aside from NFL Net, WCVB and WMUR are the only two networks within a 75-mile radius of Boston that will carry tonight's game. TWC services almost 300,000 customers in Maine, so "most cable subscribers" in the state "won't have access" to coverage of the game. Lenzi notes "several bars and restaurants in the Portland area plan to show the game" (PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, 11/13). Also in Maine, Mark LaFlamme writes under the header, "Patriots Off Air For Most TV Fans" (Lewiston SUN JOURNAL, 11/13). In Albany, Mark McGuire wrote the NFL is "skimpy in its designation of hometown markets for NFL teams, ignoring outlying markets that serve as key fan bases." The U.S. is "filled with Albanys -- homes to fans who will often drive two or more hours to a game, but are deemed unworthy of local television exemptions." The NFL and TWC in their carriage dispute are "both wrong, which doesn't help anybody." NFL Net "could be considered a niche channel in, say, March," but "considering how many other niche channels are on the lower end of the dial, and how huge the NFL is on game days, the argument is largely specious" (Albany TIMES UNION, 11/11). MARKETWATCH's Jon Friedman wrote the NFL is "playing a dangerous game," as its "attempt to boost its network is infuriating backers of its most glamorous franchise -- the Patriots." With the lack of carriage for tonight's game, the NFL is "effectively thumbing its nose at an entire region" (, 11/12).

NFL Net's Bornstein Writes Cable Cos.
"Continue To Turn A Deaf Ear" To Fans
EXPLAIN GAME: NFL Network President & CEO Steve Bornstein, in an op-ed piece released to the media, wrote, "It is clear that several big cable companies continue to turn a deaf ear to football fans, blocking or charging extra for our most popular programming on TV. ... Large cable companies discriminate against networks like NFL Network because we are independent. Have you ever wondered why you get the Golf Channel but not NFL Network? The Golf Channel is owned by Comcast, which makes the channel broadly available." Bornstein added the "recent FCC Media Bureau rulings that Comcast and Time Warner Cable discriminated against NFL Network and other independent networks should be a big step forward for consumers and NFL fans." While the FCC "ordered the case for additional proceedings," the cable companies "continue to drag their feet and are now trying to delay the proceedings, virtually guaranteeing that yet another NFL season will pass before fans get TV they really want" (NFL Network). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote of receiving Bornstein's letter on Tuesday, "Imagine my surprise when the NFL sent me an e-mail this morning offering me something for nothing." Horn: "I would have thought this matter would have been resolved long before NFL Network opened its third season of televising games last week. But it hasn't. And it doesn't look like it will anytime soon" (, 11/11). Meanwhile, NFL Net analyst Cris Collinsworth said of the dispute, "It’s ultimately probably going to end up in the courts somewhere to do it and it’s a shame because ultimately now it looks like ... either the NFL will sell that eight-game package and it’ll be on TBS or something else out there, or ... we’re going to continue to leave a lot of football fans out of the mix and that’s a shame” (“Inside The NFL,” Showtime, 11/12).

LEARNING CURVE: In DC, Tim Lemke writes MLB Network, which debuts on January 1, will "get off to a much better start than its NFL counterpart." MLB Net already has carriage in more than 50 million HHs, ahead of NFL Net's 43 million HH reach. Lemke writes that NFL Net has received "strong ratings among households" that get coverage, and its "studio shows and coverage of the NFL Draft compare in quality to those at ESPN." It also is "fair to note that the NFL Network's initial distribution ranked among the best in cable history in 2003," but it "just hasn't gained much traction with cable operators since." Over time, NFL Net "may prove the more profitable of the two networks," but "in the early going, it's all about distribution" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/13).

Return to top

Related Topics:


Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug