Thursday, December 28, 2006

Your NFL Network Update

As your primary source for updates on the continuing feud between the NFL Network and the cable companies, be advised that the Texas Bowl between Rutgers and Kansas State will be available on both Time Warner and Cablevision. As a public service, here's all you need to know:

Time Warner customers who subscribe to the "digital" package will receive free access to the NFL Network on channel 199 until Saturday at 8pm. This gives Time Warner subscribers the ability to watch both the Texas Bowl and the Insight Bowl (Texas Tech vs. Minnesota). The end of TWC's free access coincides with the start of the Giants-Redskins game. However, New York and Washington-area subscribers will be able to watch this game on free local television, as required by law.

Cablevision, on the other hand, is providing free access to the NFL Network only for the Texas Bowl. All Cablevision subscribers will be able to watch the game, not just digital subscribers. Channel listings are available here. Again, local fans of the Giants and Redskins will find the Saturday night game on regular TV.

A few items of note:
- The NFL Network's page describing this week's free access to its channel (the "freeview") contains at least one incorrect channel listing - for Cablevision. This could be a simple typo, or - conspiracy theory alert! - it could be the NFL Network making it more difficult to find the game in New Jersey, where Cablevision has a monopoly. Customers who can't find Rutgers on TV will blame the cable company, not the channel. We've already seen that New Jersey state politicians were planning to pressure Cablevision to include the NFL Network in its regular channel package until Cablevision agreed to show the Texas Bowl. The NFL could be sending Cablevision customers to the wrong channel so they get pissed and call their congressmen, who then stick it to Cablevision. Or it could just be a typo.

- If you clicked on the links above, you saw that Time Warner Cable is using NFL Network imagery on its website to promote the freeview but Cablevision is not. This bodes well for TWC subscribers who are willing to pay for the NFL Network. Time Warner's display of logos, fonts and other NFL-themed imagery is valuable advertising for the NFL Network, so this is likely a show of goodwill by TWC in its negotiations to permanently carry the channel. Expect the NFL Network to be available on Time Warner Cable in time for the 2007 season.

- The freeview is not available in high definition for TWC and Cablevision customers. I know this in the first case because I called Time Warner and asked, and in the second case because I am a Cablevision subscriber, so I can see that the channel they're reserving for the freeview is not an HD channel. I tried calling the NFL Network (310-840-4635) to find out whether the game is being filmed in HD, but the switchboard doesn't open until noon Eastern time. I'll find out and let you know. I believe that the NFL Network, a new cable channel looking for subscribers, would be smart enough to show its entire freeview in HD as a way to separate itself from crappy little startups like, oh, CBS, but I'm not yet sure.

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