NFL Network in Multiplatform Cross Hairs

The NFL Network found itself in the cross hairs of two multiplatform companies Tuesday.

For starters, Sports Business Daily reported that the NFL filed litigation in an attempt to stop DISH Network from moving NFL Network to a less penetrated programming package.

DISH Network has been unhappy with the league's move to simulcast the NFL Network's regular-season ending coverage of the Giants/Patriots game on CBS and NBC, thinking its platform (and other pay-TV services with NFL Network) would have exclusive coverage of the game.

In a statement released to SkyREPORT Tuesday, the NFL said, "EchoStar's response to the simulcast of the historic Dec. 29 Giants/Patriots game is unwarranted and not in the best interest of its subscribers. The NFL is the most popular sport in the nation and this decision is taking NFL Network away from millions of subscribers around the nation that are football fans and have been receiving NFL Network's quality programming."

The league added, "We are seeking to prevent EchoStar from violating the terms of its distribution agreement with the NFL Network."

In its statement, DISH Network said, "Clearly this is a case of greed. Everyone knew December's Giants/Patriots game was exclusive to the NFL Network. Their greed for more eyeballs and ad revenue led to their breach of our contract, in turn breaking their commitment not only to DISH Network, but to our customers. Because they failed to honor their promise, we took appropriate, justified action and look forward to proving our position in court."

Meanwhile, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, reversed a lower court ruling that found Comcast could place the NFL Network in a lower-penetrated sports programming tier. While the lower court ruling was reversed, it was no slam-dunk for either entity. The appellate court denied summary judgment for both parties.

Still, the NFL said it was happy with the lower court reversal, saying the court action "ultimately will lead to the restoration of NFL Network service to the millions of fans who received it before the network was moved to an expensive sports tier.'

In a statement, Comcast said, "We are pleased that the Appellate Court agreed that Comcast's main argument is a strong one and denied the NFL's request to enter judgment in their favor. We look forward to pressing ahead with discovery and trial in this case to vindicate our right to carry the NFL Network on a sports tier, which is the fairest and best result for our customers."