In the second game of its 2011 primetime slate, NFL Network will present the New York Jets flying into the Mile High City to face the Denver Broncos.
Coming off the best start in its sixth season of Thursday Night Football coverage with the Oakland-San Diego game drawing 5.3 million on Nov. 10, NFL Network's Nov. 17 contest is rife with playoff implications for Rex Ryan's and John Fox's inconsistent Jets and Broncos squads. The matchup should also benefit from the curiosity factor of the passing-challenged quarterback phenomenon that is the Broncos' Tim Tebow playing before a national audience and having the No. 1 Nielsen market in tow. Or, at least some of it.
Subscribers to Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon FiOS and RCN will be able to watch the action on NFL Network. However, those who buy their multichannel video packages from the area's two largest distributors, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, will have to watch the game on WPIX-TV, channel 11. (By contract, all NFL games appearing on cable are required to on an over-the-air broadcast station in the markets of the participating teams.) Those MSOs remain the only two of the nation's top 9 providers that don't carry the pro football league's in-house network.
Negotiations between NFL Network and Time Warner Cable continued from late summer into early fall, before breaking off on Oct. 7, according to the parties. There haven't been any discussions since, even with the Jets game on the schedule this week.
The nation's No. 2 cable operator -- which after scoring long-term media rights to the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers in February to tip off a pair of regional sports networks in the City of Angels in 2012, established TWC Sports in June and is expected to soon announce a deal with Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy -- declined to comment about the NFL Network.
Since Time Warner Cable also negotiates programming deals for Bright House Networks, that MSO's subscribers also don't receive NFL Network. Given that Bright House's stronghold in Tampa and Orlando is also Tebow country -- he grew up in the Sunshine State and led the University of Florida Gators to a pair of national titles and was the Heisman Trophy winner in 2007 -- the service is also likely to miss out on a significant audience there as well.
As for the New York DMA's preeminent video distributor, Cablevision, citing longstanding policy declined to comment on the status of discussions with NFL Network. The MSO did offer this statement: "Cablevision carries all Jets and Giants games, all of the playoffs and the Super Bowl. NFL Network carries only a handful of out-of-town games at a high price with no local teams. If the NFL really cared about cable customers being able to see their games, they would make Sunday Ticket available to cable customers, which they have refused to do."
For its part, NFL Network said: "We are disappointed Time Warner Cable and Cablevision will not be offering NFL Network and NFL RedZone this season."
In August, the NFL inked carriage deals with Charter Communications and Mediacom for both its 24/7 network, as well as the ad hoc scoring service NFL RedZone, where fans can see all of highlights and action inside the 20-yared-line, the so-called red zone, from the Sunday afternoon contests.
NFL Network, which kicked off its primetime game slate in 2006 with some 37.5 million subs, now currently counts nearly 58 million subscribers, its high-water homes tally to date. The league says its RedZone service has tackled a 37% jump in subscribers from September 2010 through the start of the 2011 campaign.