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Comcast Flags NFL Network for Interference

Comcast is calling NFL Network for interference of the tortuous variety. In a “cease-and-desist” letter dated Nov. 19, the cable operator demanded that the sports network stop inciting Comcast subscribers to switch providers.

The National Football League has been running a campaign against Comcast due to the cable operator’s insistence of keeping NFL Network on its premium-sports tier. The NFL wants the network to be carried on the basic tier, which would increase its viewer base. Comcast said it doesn’t want its total subscriber base to incur the charge of carrying the network.

In response, NFL Network launched a Web site that singles out cable operators such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems as denying access to the network and coaxes people to switch their service to those that carry it at no extra charge, including satellite-TV providers DirecTV and EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network, as well as Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV and AT&T’s U-verse TV.

“The actions by [NFL Network] and its representatives to deny Comcast the benefits of exercising its contractual rights constitute a material violation of the network’s contractual obligations,” Comcast executive vice president of content acquisition Matt Bond stated in the letter.

The letter called on the network to stop encouraging Comcast subscribers to cancel their service as of Friday, Nov. 23. Comcast is also reserving the right to seek relief for damages already incurred as a result of the online campaign.

The network sued Comcast for putting it on the sports tier, but in May, the courts ruled in favor of the cable company.

The basis of the suit was that Comcast agreed to keep the network on a basic tier when it was negotiating with the NFL to get a package of football games aired on its Versus network. Instead, the NFL kept the games and put them on NFL Network, which Comcast promptly placed in its sports package.

The NFL claimed that because the games were on NFL Network, which was carried by Comcast, then Comcast actually did get the games and was bound by the contract to carry them on the basic tier.

Representatives of the NFL were not available for comment.