Originally created 12/14/06

Few will see Falcons game



If you want to watch the Atlanta Falcons play Dallas on TV this weekend, you need to start making plans now.

Saturday night's game will be shown on the NFL Network. The 8 p.m. broadcast will be the fifth of eight on the network this year.

This is the first year that the NFL Network is showing games on its channel.

The problem is that the NFL Network is only available in about 40 million of the 111 million homes in the United States with television sets. The NFL has requested that its network be carried on the most widely available basic service lineup rather than on a special tier.

The games are available via satellite and are carried by Dish Network and DIRECTV. Several restaurants and bars in the Augusta area will carry the game.

Locally, Comcast is the only cable provider that offers the NFL Network and carries the live games each week. Knology of Augusta and G Force Cable in Aiken both offer the channel, but do not show the games because they have balked at paying franchise fees required by the NFL.

A spokesman for Atlantic Broadband, which acquired G Force Cable earlier this year, said the fees were such that it would result in an "unhappy reaction" from subscribers.

"The NFL is demanding an egregious amount of money for eight games," said Donna Garofano, vice president of government affairs for Atlantic Broadband. "If the NFL would allow us to put them on a sports tier where people could make a choice, we would be delighted to carry these eight games."

A customer service representative for Knology also said the decision to not carry the games was a financial one.

Comcast Corp. offers the NFL Network as part of a digital package ordered by only about 7 million out of its 24 million subscribers. In the Augusta area, Comcast subscribers get the channel as part of the digital plus package. The NFL games also can be seen on high definition on Comcast channel 206.

So far, complaints have been few.

"I have not heard a word about it," said Bill Botham, Comcast's public relations manager for the Augusta area. "It'll heat up when the weekend gets here."

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or john.boyette@augustachronicle.com.