Suddenlink’s NFL Network Passes Fall Incomplete


Suddenlink failed to hit paydirt with a trio of proposals to the NFL Network.

The nation’s seventh-largest operator sent a letter, signed by senior vice president of programming Patty McCaskill, to NFL Network president Steve Bornstein the day before Thanksgiving offering three scenarios, including free-stand-alone digital positioning or pay-per-view offers for its game coverage, for the channel’s consideration.

Suddenlink said the NFL Network turned down the proposals on the afternoon of Nov. 27. A spokesman said the operator “wants to reach a deal for our customers who want the network, but we don’t want 100% of our customers to have to pay for it.”

Suddenlink, in a statement, said the NFL “would accept nothing less than the same $100 million ransom they demanded more than a year ago.”

An NFL Network spokesman, noting that Suddenlink has offered such proposals in the past, responded: “We’ve grown our subscriber base 10% since last year at this time. We’d like to thank Suddenlink for contributing to our increase in viewers.”

The NFL Network, which currently counts some 35 million subscribers, is in a stalemate with Suddenlink and other operators like Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems Corp. over a monthly per subscriber fee of around 70 cents and digital-basic positioning. Comcast, meanwhile, migrated NFL Network to a sports tier from digital basic, following a favorable court ruling in May, costing the service about 8-million suscriber with the nation's largest cable operator.

Under the first option, Suddenlink indicated that it remains willing “to carry the NFL Network in our upgraded systems with a digital sports tier, at a reasonable fee." The operator said such an “arrangement would be similar to what we understand of Comcast’s carriage of the Network and to the deal the Network recently reached with Cox [Communications] in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.” A Nov. 2 Associated Press story said Cox, which includes NFL Network as part of its sports and information tier, would also carry the HD version of the service.

Suddenlink, under the second option, said it would make NFL Network’s eight live NFL primetime games and its college bowl game coverage available on pay-per-view at a rate determined by the network, with all revenue remitted to the channel.

Similarly, Suddelink said it would remit all of the revenue the NFL Network would generate as a stand-alone digital channel, whose retail price would be determined by the programmer. The operator said those revenues streams would extend to local advertising avails, which it would waive, as a means to “either reduce the cost to digital customers or provide the channel to them free of charge.”

NFL Network also took a hit on Nov. 27, when FCC commissioner Kevin Martin dropped a push to allow the service to invoke compulsory arbitration that could have resulted in the network gaining carriage with cable operators.