FCC Steps Into Battle Between NFL and Time Warner Cable

Orders Football Network Back on Air Until Carriage Issues Settled

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Communications Commission ordered Time Warner Cable today to immediately put the NFL Network back on the Adelphia Communications and Comcast cable systems it had acquired as part of its acquisition of bankrupt Adelphia.
Time Warner Cable doesn't carry the NFL Network, but it has to return the channel to systems it acquired in the Adelphia deal.
Time Warner Cable doesn't carry the NFL Network, but it has to return the channel to systems it acquired in the Adelphia deal.

Swift response
The FCC responded swiftly to a complaint filed by NFL Enterprises earlier this week that customers of the affected systems got insufficient advanced notice the network was being discontinued when Time Warner on July 31 closed its $12.5 billion deal for Adelphia. The NFL contends a 30-day notice is required.

Time Warner and Comcast each got chunks of Adelphia and then swapped some cable systems to give each stronger market concentrations in particular areas.

Talks stalled
While Comcast and Adelphi aired the NFL Network, Time Warner doesn't and, at least according to the NFL, talks have been stymied as to whether the network should be available to all viewers (the NFL's desire) or placed on a sports tier that consumers pay more for (Time Warner's position).

Because Time Warner has no contract with the NFL, it shut off the network to about 1 million homes when it took over the systems Aug. 1. The NFL says the number of homes affected could top 3.7 million, but Time Warner said it picked up 3.3 million subscribers of which, at most, 1.3 million had the NFL Network.

The NFL said in its complaint that it offered Time Warner a 30-day grace period to carry the network after the switchover but that the offer was rejected by Time Warner on July 27, the same day the company began running newspaper ads in some of the markets affected that the network would be dropped Aug. 1.

Not taking sides
In today's order the FCC didn't take sides on the complaint, but ordered the NFL Network be put back on the air until it can resolve the complaint. It also ordered quick responses from both sides.

In a statement, the NFL thanked the FCC for its "speedy action" and said it is looking forward to "continuing discussions with Time Warner regarding long-term carriage of the NFL Network."

Time Warner Cable, meanwhile, said it is currently reviewing the order. "This order was issued without offering us the opportunity to respond to the NFL Network's allegations. We believe the FCC's decision is wrong and we are considering our options," the statement said.
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