Fred Cannock lives in New Port Richey. He's a football fan. He gets his cable television through Bright House Networks. That means he does not get the NFL Network. Cannock writes that someone needs "a kick in the posterior."
Shirley Shanahan lives in Oldsmar. She, too, gets Bright House. She writes that if the NFL Network came into her home, she would have "one happy household."
Larry Brown of Apollo Beach said not getting the NFL Network is a "sore subject." Getting it has become his "crusade."
Last week, the St. Petersburg Times sports section asked to hear from Bright House customers upset that they could not get the NFL Network. More than 300 responded. There was anger, frustration, bitterness. Some blamed the NFL. Most blamed Bright House. Bob Sims of Largo cut straight to the point: "Why don't we receive the NFL Network?"
The answer is not simple.
The NFL blames Time Warner, the cable outfit that still handles the channel lineup negotiations for Bright House. Time Warner and Bright House blame the NFL.
Caught in the middle? Bright House subscribers who, with the 2011 NFL season just days away, face another season without the network.
The NFL Network, run by the league, launched in 2003. There are news and feature programs, highlight shows, reruns of games, a sister station that jumps from game to game and, of course, live games. Starting on Nov. 10, the NFL Network will carry eight games, including the Dec. 17 game between the Cowboys and Bucs in Tampa.
The network has deals with seven of the top eight cable companies in the country, reaching more than 62 million homes. The holdout among the top eight cable outlets is Time Warner/Bright House. In Tampa Bay, Bright House is in more than a million homes, making it the area's largest cable company.
Neither side will say much about the standoff.
Bright House says it continues to negotiate with the NFL.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, "We're trying to get (a deal) done. We believe it's good for fans, we think it's good for Time Warner, and we believe the market has been set. … We know fans want more of it. That's why we created it, and we will not stop until we get it fully distributed."
The NFL Network's stance is this: It's offering the same deal that is good enough for other cable companies, but Time Warner has turned it down.
Time Warner counters that if it were to pay to take on the NFL Network, it would have to pass that cost onto the customers by raising their monthly rates even though its surveys show that most of its subscribers are not interested in the NFL Network. Time Warner and Bright House fear that they could lose customers by raising rates for a station most do not want.
Time Warner/Bright House says it is willing to put the network on a "sports tier" package. That means customers who want it could get it by paying for it, just as they do for movie channels such as HBO and Showtime. Time Warner/Bright House says the NFL Network has declined and insists on being a part of the basic cable package.
Many Bright House subscribers who want the network say they are frustrated because their bill keeps going up anyway. Many said they would gladly pay extra for the NFL Network.
But putting the station on basic cable or a separate sports tier remains the sticking point between Time Warner and the NFL Network.
So the negotiations continue, and Bright House customers have only a few options: go without the NFL Network until a deal is reached, switch cable companies or go to a sports bar that gets the network.
"I don't know why Bright House doesn't carry the NFL," Gene Yanosy of Hernando said. "They should long ago have reached an agreement to provide us with this coverage. The NFL is not blameless in this dispute. They hold us hostage and then try to put all the blame on the cable companies. Stop the bickering. Who do you think you are, the U.S. Senate? As a consumer I am fed up."