Net back on cable systems

The NFL Network scored a first down against Time Warner Cable by getting the FCC to order TW to put the network back on cable systems in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Dallas and other markets.

Time Warner called the ruling by the Federal Communications Commission “wrong,” but added that it still hasn’t decided whether to fight the FCC.

The NFL Network thanked the FCC in a statement, saying, “We look forward to continuing discussions with Time Warner regarding longterm carriage” of the network.

TW removed the NFL Network on Aug. 1 from the cable systems it took over from Adelphia and swapped with Comcast following the completion of a merger in which TW and Comcast swallowed up Adelphia’s 5 million subscribers.

TW doesn’t have a deal with the NFL Network, whereas both Adelphia and Comcast do. TW wants to place NFL Network on a digital sports tier, which the network has rejected because the these tiers, which cost extra monthly fees, have drawn too few TW subscribers. The network says its ad revenues would take too big a hit from the diminished subscriber base.

The NFL and TW have no talks scheduled as of now, but both sides said they want to try to come up with a deal that would make the network available to all of TW’s subscribers, including the new ones absorbed in the Adelphia deal.

The NFL Network is convinced it has a strong hand because it has signed a six-year contract with the NFL to carry eight regular-season primetime games for the first time, beginning in late November.

The NFL is planning a mulitmillion-dollar marketing campaign with the satellite distributors DirecTV and Echostar to go after TW’s customers if it doesn’t clinch a deal for the network.

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