Sports Outside the Beltway

Comcast Sues NFL

Comcast is mad as hell at the NFL telling its customers to switch to satellite if they want to see games on the NFL Network and isn’t going to take it any more.

Comcast and the NFL Network are going back to court, with the nation’s largest cable company claiming the league is violating a contract over which the two sides are already embroiled in a lawsuit.

The complaint, filed with the New York State Supreme Court in New York County on Thursday, asks for unspecified damages because of NFL officials’ efforts to encourage customers to switch from Comcast and other large cable providers to television services that carry the network as part of basic programming.

“It seems to us that, after repeatedly telling you and us that its customers don’t care about our channel, Comcast seems to be a little nervous about our perfectly legitimate efforts to make sure that consumers know all of their options for getting NFL Network,” network spokesman Seth Palansky said in an e-mail.

The suit acknowledges the NFL’s campaign has been successful in persuading customers to leave Comcast. It alleges the league’s actions violate its contract with Comcast by depriving the cable company of revenue it would otherwise receive.

The two sides have feuded over Comcast’s desire to include the channel on a premium sports tier that customers must pay extra to receive. The NFL Network sued Comcast in October 2006 in the same court, trying to prevent the cable provider from moving the channel off its basic digital tier. In May, Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Bernard J. Fried ruled in favor of Comcast. The network has appealed.

I don’t know the terms of the NFL’s contract with Comcast, if any, and the dispute will likely hinge on the precise wording. Otherwise, though, you’d think the NFL would have every right to tell angry Comcast fans to switch to another provider.

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