NFL Sabotages Partners' Big-Game Hype


If anyone actually signed up for AT&T U-verse specifically to watch the Giants take on the undefeated Patriots Dec. 29, he or she should have felt cheated.

AT&T bought ads
that ran in the Dec. 16 editions of 20 local newspapers, touting the fact that its customers would be able to watch "history in the making" as the Pats bid for a 16-0 season — but that cable customers wouldn’t. That’s because, the ads explained, the telco’s TV service carries the NFL Network, while the local cable operators in those markets do not.

So much for that exclusive game.

The NFL, facing pressure from Washington and the ire of New England fans nationwide, snubbed distributors of its fledgling network and decided to simulcast the Giants/Patriots game on CBS and NBC.

At least one NFL Network affiliate, RCN, publicly complained about the league’s turnabout. "In effect, the NFL Network is making RCN customers pay extra for what others are getting for free," RCN senior vice president of strategic and external affairs Richard Ramlall said, in a statement. "It’s unprecedented that the NFL Network has decided to alter a signed contract without negotiation or consideration of the other parties."

Unprecedented or not, there presumably will be some conference calls this week as the NFL tries to smooth things over with folks who paid to get something that was later given away for free. (The NFL said discussions with distributors who may be upset over the simulcast would “take place privately.”)

For starters: How about reimbursing AT&T for that 20-newspaper ad campaign that turned out to be untrue?