Comcast settles carriage dispute with NFL Network

After a long and oftentimes contentious battle, the NFL Network has reached a nine-year agreement with Comcast Cable to make the fledgling channel available to Comcast’s 10 million subscribers.

Under terms of the deal, Comcast, one of the largest cable operators in the United States, will move the NFL Network channel from its premium Sports Entertainment Package to its Digital Classic tier by Aug. 1.

The three-year dispute revolved around the NFL’s complaint that Comcast discriminated against its NFL Network by moving it to a sports tier that subscribers pay extra for — potentially making it less attractive to viewers. Comcast had countered that it moved it to the tier to save money in subscriber fees. Although specific terms of the deal were not made public, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was "very pleased that NFL Network and other NFL content will be widely distributed in millions of more homes on Comcast’s service.”

The two sides have also agreed to drop pending legal actions before the FCC and a New York state court, although an official decision has not been reached. The deal was announced shortly after the league's two-day spring meeting formally opened in Florida this week.

In related news, the NFL has signed a two-year extension with CBS Sports for the exclusive right to broadcast American Football Conference (AFC) games. The new agreement runs through the 2013-14 season and includes CBS broadcasting Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013.

Thirteen of CBS's 14 owned stations are in NFL markets, including New York, San Francisco/Oakland, Boston, Miami, Denver, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which are all AFC markets.

CBS Sports, which first began televising NFL regular-season games in 1956 and this season marks its 50th, had broadcast rights to the National Football Conference package from 1970 through 1993. The network began televising AFC games in 1998.