Britt Balks At NFL Network’s Arbitration Play

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Time Warner Cable president and CEO Glenn Britt doesn’t appear to have arbitration on his mind when it comes to the NFL Network.

Britt replied to a letter sent earlier in the day by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who requested that Time Warner Cable agree to “baseball-style” binding arbitration as a means to get the network and the potentially historic Dec. 29 game between the unbeaten New England Patriots and New York Giants carried on the operator’s systems.

The channel, unable to crack the No. 2 cable operator's roster, has been seeking digital-basic positioning and a monthly license fee of 70 cents per subscriber.

In his missive, Britt noted that the operator has successfully reached “agreements with hundreds of programming networks without the use of arbitration. We continue to believe that the best way to achieve results is to privately seek a resolution and not attempt to negotiate through the press or elected officials.”

The Time Warner Cable leader then reiterated the company’s stance: it is willing to carry the NFL Network on a sports tier or as a premium service. 

Beyond that, Britt said Time Warner would make the game available to its subscribers on a per-game basis, at a retail price set by the NFL, with 100% of attendant revenue going to the league.

“While carriage with no mark-up to us is far from ideal from our point of view, we are willing to take this step to make sure no interested fan is unable to watch these games on our systems,” Britt wrote in the letter. “To date, you and your colleagues have been unwilling to seriously discuss any of these proposals.”

In the meantime, Britt urged the NFL to move the Patriots-Giants game to broadcast to ensure the widest distribution. Failing that, Britt said Time Warner Cable stands ready to offer the game on a digital-cable channel on a “freeview” base, as it did in some markets with last year’s Texas Bowl.

In his letter, Goodell included a term sheet that was not disseminated to the press, for a binding arbitration process that the NFL is “prepared immediately to enter with Time Warner.” If the operator agreed to having a neutral third party determine the price and tier for NFL Network, the operator systems’ would receive the service and the key game, with the decision to be rendered later. New England, 14-0, is seeking to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the NFL's only unbeaten club.

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