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Council Backs NFL Network

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council is running interference for NFL Network in its carriage dispute with Time Warner Cable in L.A.

The council on Friday passed a resolution introduced by Councilman Bernard Parks that encourages the Federal Communications Commission to extend indefinitely a temporary order issued Aug. 3 that required Time Warner to restore NFL Network to its customers. The original order extends through Sept. 3.

The resolution asking for the extension passed by a 7-1 margin. The dissenting vote came from Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a former Adelphia cable executive. He said the parties should work out their differences on their own.

The FCC’s temporary order came two days after Time Warner Cable abruptly took NFL Network off the channel lineup following a takeover of Adelphia and Comcast, both of which serviced homes in the L.A. market.

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That takeover, completed through purchase of bankrupt Adelphia and an asset swap with Comcast, involved about 1.6 million television households in the greater L.A. market. Time Warner now serves about 2 million households in the market and about 600,000 in the city of L.A.

Parks argues that Time Warner’s dropping of NFL Network is the city’s business because he believes it will force cable customers to turn to satellite services DirecTV and Dish Network, which offer NFL Network. Cities accrue tax dollars from cable subscribers but not from satellite subscribers.

Parks said Friday that Time Warner executive Deane Leavenworth had promised the council that there would be no change in service after Time Warner took control of the Adelphia and Comcast homes in L.A. Then, Parks said, he went home the next day and NFL Network was gone from his cable lineup.

Parks said in his resolution that an estimated 22,000 complaints had been lodged since Time Warner dropped NFL Network, some to Time Warner, some to NFL Network, some to the NFL and some to the City Council. He said Time Warner received 7,843 complaints, as opposed to 88 requests to have the network dropped.

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The crux of the dispute between NFL Network and Time Warner is that the cable company wants to put the network on a pay digital tier, but the network wants to be on a basic service tier so that it reaches as many homes as possible.

Time Warner’s Leavenworth said Sunday that he believed an agreement could be reached that is acceptable to both parties. He said the council resolution would not affect negotiations.

NFL Network is televising NFL exhibition games and will televise eight regular-season games, beginning Thanksgiving night with Kansas City vs. Denver.

Time Warner Cable is also involved, along with the Dodgers, in a dispute with Major League Baseball over the creation of a “Dodgers on Demand” channel without approval from MLB.

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NFL Network is expected to announce today that it has hired Deion Sanders as a studio analyst. Sanders, who spent the last two seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens, worked as a commentator on CBS’ “The NFL Today” from 2001 to 2003.

Sanders will make his NFL Network debut Sept. 7, the night that the NFL’s regular season begins. He will work on a Sunday night highlights show with Rich Eisen and Steve Mariucci throughout the season and on the pregame show when NFL Network begins its eight-game schedule on Thanksgiving night.


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