The New England Patriots are hoping to make history on Saturday night by being the first team to accomplish a perfect 16-0 season, but the story behind the story is the major concession made by the NFL Network.
In a surprise decision late yesterday, the NFL Network decided to simulcast this Saturday’s upcoming Patriots-Giants game on NBC and CBS. This is great news for football fans, who will now all have access to Saturday’s game, but it may not have been in the best interest of the league-owned network, which is struggling to get cable carriers.
"The cable companies have no incentive to come back," said Neil Best, a sports columnist at Newsday. "The only way I can see the NFL Network is going to get widely distributed at this point would be to drastically drop the price that they’re asking for or, more importantly, to somehow have a deal where a piece of their equity goes to one or more of these cable companies."
Two years ago the NFL Network realized in order to get carried by the most cable companies, it had to give regular season games to itself. It was believed that great, must-see games like Saturday’s Patriots-Giants game, would give the network a chance. However, when it looked like the cable carriers weren’t folding, the network decided not to hold out any longer and broadcast its feed of Saturday’s game on CBS and NBC. Some say this game was a massive bargaining chip that the NFL Network might never have again, but others have a more optimistic view.
"It think the choice they made to open up the game really gives the NFL Network more attention, more promotion," said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports.
"I think ultimately down the road the issue is still going to be resolved in a negotiation and my guess is the NFL Network will eventually make its deals with Comcast and Time Warner , and I think next year you’re going to see the NFL Network on those major systems," he said.
NFL Network is available on smaller cable providers, as well as satellite operators DirecTV and Dish Network and the video services of AT&T and Verizon Communications .