As the New England Patriots attempt on Saturday to become the first NFL team in 35 years to go undefeated for an entire season, their victory--or lack thereof--may not be seen millions of eager fans.
The Patriots' season-closing game against the New York Giants will be broadcast by the NFL Network, and may not be available to many cable TV subscribers. Time Warner, Cablevision and Charter have all
refused to carry the channel, claiming it is demanding unreasonable terms. The cable operators and the NFL Network are still talking, but the clock is ticking. "There's still time," says NFL Network
spokesman Seth Palansky. "This is an easy deal to work out."
The spat could leave as many as 20 million cable homes without the game, although viewers in the Boston and New York markets
will still be able to see it on broadcast stations. Time Warner--the nation's No. 2 cable company after Comcast--just rejected an NFL Network request to let an arbitrator make the call, and the two
sides have not even spoken since Dec. 20. The NFL Network wants cable operators to slip it into a basic programming package so it can reach more people and garner higher programming fees. But Time
Warner and some other MSOs want to put it in an exclusive sports package. Satellite TV subscribers will be able to see the game with no problem, as both DirecTV and Dish Network will be carrying it.
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