FCC Rejects Time Warner’s NFL Appeal


The Federal Communications Commission Monday reaffirmed last Thursday’s ruling that Time Warner Cable had to carry NFL Network for 30 days on systems just acquired from Comcast and Adelphia Communications.

Last Friday, Time Warner threatened to take the FCC to court if the agency didn’t back down and allow it to drop NFL Network. Following the release of the FCC’s second decision, Time Warner did not commit to a court fight over the need to provide consumers a 30-day notice before deleting a channel.

"Time Warner Cable continues to believe that the FCC has misconstrued the notice rules and has ordered a remedy that is in clear violation of the First Amendment. The FCC's action has resulted in exacerbating, not avoiding, consumer confusion,” Time Warner spokesman Mark Harrad said. "We are reviewing the decision and considering our options."

Time Warner and NFL Network have never had a carriage agreement, but the network had deals with Comcast and Adelphia systems that Time Warner obtained July 31 when the $16.9 billion Adelphia transaction closed.

Time Warner dropped NFL Network on those systems Aug. 1. Claiming that it gave Time Warner the necessary 30 days to issue the proper consumer notices, NFL Network complained to the FCC within hours that it had been illegally removed by Time Warner.

The second FCC ruling was again issued by Media Bureau chief Donna Gregg, an appointee of FCC chairman Kevin Martin. Time Warner may ask the five FCC commissioners to overturn Gregg’s rulings as an alternative to an immediate court challenge, which Time Warner has said would involve important First Amendment issues.

Time Warner and the National Football League have been haggling over terms of carriage, with the network seeking an expanded-basic position but Time Warner hoping to start a sports tier with NFL Network as a key driver of mini-tier penetration.

“We plan to continue discussions with Time Warner about the long-term carriage of NFL Network. In the meantime, we are pleased that NFL fans will continue to have access to our 'insider' coverage of NFL training camps and the preseason as a result of this ruling,” the NFL said in a statement.

In her 15-page order, Gregg said Time Warner’s treatment of NFL Network was “disappointing” because FCC members and outside parties “had expressed serious concern about the impact that the Adelphia transactions would have on unaffiliated programmers.”