Cowboys’ Jones Casts His NFL Net

As head of the National Football League’s NFL Network committee and owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones has a vested interest in getting the network’s eight live game telecasts — two of which feature the Cowboys — into as many cable homes as possible. Ahead of the network’s first game on Thanksgiving night, he spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the latest carriage push.

MCN: Any chance in your mind that the network will reach a distribution deal with Time Warner Cable, Comcast and other operators before the kickoff of the network’s first live game telecast of the season?

Jerry Jones: No chance. I don’t have any optimism … there’s nothing in the works and its really clear to me that they don’t have any intention of putting in on their basic digital tier.

MCN: And that’s the only way that you would consider a deal?

JJ: Yes. Our whole goal from the get-go was to have the broadest distribution for our fans, and those sports tiers just don’t do that at all. We made quite a commitment as owners to build this NFL Network, and tiering doesn’t work. That’s real obvious to us: We have over 240 cable and satellite operators that carry our games, and so it’s real clear to us that these three big cable companies have a different agenda — they want to tier it and build an asset for themselves.

MCN: How important is it for the league in general, and for you as Dallas Cowboys owner in particular, to have wide distribution of several games that will most likely have playoff implications?

JJ: One of the reasons I’m talking to you is because with Time Warner [Cable] — which is in a lot of our market area — not showing our game, it deprives literally hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions [of Cowboys fans] of games. We have the same fan interest in San Antonio and Austin [where Time Warner operates, and games won’t be carried on local broadcast TV] as we do in Dallas, so it’s a big concern.

MCN: Will you continue to campaign for consumers to drop cable and subscribe to DirecTV and Dish Network if you can’t reach a distribution deal with the operators?

JJ: Yes. We’re making a long-term commitment to the network and we will continue to offer games and other content on the network. I don’t view this as a short-term thing, so I’m encouraging all of Time Warner, Comcast and Cablevision’s subscribers to go to the alternative. Now some have very limited choices, but some have competition and we encourage them to switch.

At the end of the day they’re in business to have customers and they operate with a privileged franchise, but if they don’t give those customers what they demand then they suffer. So I think the consumer will ultimately dictate [to the operators] and we’ll get our games on cable.

MCN: Will we see the Cowboys in the Super Bowl?

JJ: Oh, I dare not even think about it!

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.