So you just picked up your paper, saw that tonight's marquee NFL matchup between Green Bay and Dallas is on the NFL Network and are wondering, "What the heck is the NFL Network -- and do I get it?"
The answer depends on whether you have cable or satellite service.
Both DirecTV and Dish Network carry the NFL Network, and so does Comcast on its sports entertainment tier. But customers of Charter Communications and Mediacom are going to need to go to a sports bar or a friend's house that has satellite if they want to watch the first meeting between two 10-1 teams since 1990. Neither of those cable systems has the 24-7 football channel.
If you are a Comcast subscriber who doesn't get the sports entertainment package there is still time, provided you have a digital receiver. The suggestion is to call Comcast (651-222-3333) early today if you are willing to shell out an extra $5.99 for a month of additional channels that includes the NFL Network. It doesn't have to be a long-term commitment because there is no penalty for canceling after a month.
Ideally, the NFL would like to see Comcast make this game available to all of its subscribers without the additional fee, but the sides have been at odds since the network was moved to the sports entertainment level. The NFL wants operators to carry the network on a digital basic tier, but cable execs are balking because the league also is looking to charge a reported 70 cents per subscriber in part because it has a package of eight late-season games.
"We reached out to Comcast last week to remind them of their rights in our agreement allows them to make NFL Network available to all of their 24 million-plus TV customers nationwide," said Seth Palansky, communications director for the NFL Network. "We urged them to do so and are hopeful they will do the right thing for their customers."
Comcast responded: "Under our agreement with the NFL, which the league agreed to and signed, we offer the NFL Network on our sports entertainment package. This is the best and fairest way to provide the NFL's expensive programming to customers."
There is another way to follow tonight's game without visual images. KFAN Radio (1130 AM) will carry Westwood One's broadcast with Dick Enberg and former Vikings coach Dennis Green on the call.