Time Warner, NFL Fight, Dish Scores

As Time Warner Cable and the NFL Network continue their spat over whether the cable operator must carry the football outlet, Dish Network is seizing the opportunity to score new customers. Dish is launching an ad blitz featuring New York Giants running back Tiki Barber to persuade football-hungry customers to dump cable and sign up with the satellite operator.

The national TV, radio and print campaign stars the charismatic Barber and carries an "I want football 24/7" message--a reference to NFLN's nonstop football programming.

The principal target is the customers of TWC and Cablevision--the two largest cable operators that don't offer NFLN and have more than 17 million customers combined. Dish carries the network as part of its America's Top 60 package.

The offensive also includes an Iwantfootball24-7.com Web site, which highlights Dish's financial incentives for customers to switch, such as service for $24.99 a month, plus a DVR upgrade.

In addition to Barber, five other NFL stars, including Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe, will be featured in local versions of the campaign in targeted markets.



Dallas is one the markets in which NFLN was dropped by TWC when the cable operator took control of their cable systems formerly operated by Comcast or bankrupt Adelphia. Los Angeles, Buffalo and Cleveland are other markets where NFLN was benched on July 31, then reinstated under an FCC temporary ruling. A final decision is pending.

Under the ruling, the FCC suggested that TWC violated regulations requiring it to give customers 30 days notice before ditching a channel. TWC has since notified the more than 1 million customers who were affected that a permanent cutoff is coming under the 30-day rule on Sept. 3.

TWC and the NFLN have failed to agree on terms for carriage of the network. The cable operator wants to carry the network on a pay-for-play sports tier--only customers who want it pay for it. The NFLN believes it should be carried on expanded basic services largely because it will carry eight regular-season games this fall.

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