Robert Conrad, 77, enjoyed the Colts versus Falcons game on his television Thursday night. Conrad, who lives in Stony Creek Township, would not have been able to watch the game if he had been in another part of the state.
The game aired on the Indianapolis NBC affiliate, WTHR (Channel 13), but in other parts of Indiana and the nation, the game was available only on the NFL Network.
ESPN, the owner of the NFL Network, has been pushing cable companies and satellite companies to pick up the all-football, all-the-time opportunity, but providers such as Time Warner are saying no. The cable companies say the NFL Network is asking for 70 cents a month per subscriber.
State Rep. Scott Reske, D-District 37, is pushing for a solution between the two media entities. Reske wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission requesting a look at the issue. In January, if no resolution is found, Reske will introduce legislation that will force the sides to negotiate.
“All I’m saying is, that they need to come to the table,” Reske said. “There’s three components to this. One is the cable companies, of course. The second is these independent networks, and the third is the customers.”
For two years, Reske said, he has received constant complaints about the rift from people who could not see their beloved sports teams in action.
“For me, it’s not cable versus the NFL Network; it’s the customers are frustrated, and these are legalized monopolies, utility monopolies,” Reske said. “That frustration is not being handled in a timely way.”
Reske said he would rather see a uniform agreement come nationally, but a local agreement could help remedy some problems.
“Something has to be done,” he said.
Comcast, which serves Indianapolis, offers the NFL Network as part of a special bundle of sports channels for subscribers. The cost for the bundle is about $4.95 per month.
“We started carrying it two years ago,” Mark Apple, regional vice president of public relations for Comcast, said. “We offer it on a sports and entertainment package.”
The package includes NBA TV, a college sports channel, a tennis channel and other sports-related entertainment.
While the availability of football games is a concern for Conrad, he’s more worried about the college basketball season.
“I kind of lean (toward being an Indiana University) fan, but what I look for is a good game,” Conrad said.
Comcast would like to have added the Big Ten Network to the sports package, but the network refused.
“They want it to be on basic cable,” Apple said. “That way they can maximize their advertising.”
The Big Ten Network would cost $1.10 per customer, Apple said.
Insight, the main cable service for Anderson, offers the NFL Network on its digital service to Anderson. Comcast is taking over part of Insight’s districts, including Anderson, in January.
Because of the changeover, Insight offers the Big Ten Network only to the regions that will stay with the company.
“Anything that is going to stay with the Insight family will get the Big Ten Network,” said Sandra Colony, senior vice president of communications for Insight Communications.
Reske’s legislation would include all independent networks, including the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network.
Satellite companies have been more willing to add the selection to their lineups. NewsCorp, which owns DirecTV Group and EchoStar Communications, added the NFL Network soon after its inception. The satellite giant has about 25 million customers.
Conrad said he was going to consider buying the extra channels for his home, but he wasn’t sure.
“I’m just going to go back and get a radio,” he said.
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