The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 9, 2007

Steelers-Rams game will be blacked out for many area fans

Power plays in sports usually are reserved for hockey.

However, a power play of a different sort is unfolding regarding the broadcast of the Pittsburgh Steelers Dec. 20 game against the St. Louis Rams. Depending on who you asked, it’s hard to tell who’s being shortchanged.

In short, most residents in the region won’t be able to watch the 8:15 p.m. contest at home.

Those who subscribe to extended tiers of service offered by Atlantic Broadband and Comcast or receive their television signal via DirecTV or Dish Network will be able to watch the game on the NFL Network.

Under NFL’s rules, the game also will be broadcast on KDKA in the Pittsburgh television market.

That wouldn’t seem to be a problem for viewers in Cambria and Somerset counties who have KDKA included as part of basic cable. But the NFL has dictated that KDKA must be blacked out when the game is retransmitted in secondary markets, which includes Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Blair and Clearfield counties.

Phil Dubrow, general manager of WTAJ-TV, the CBS affiliate in Altoona, said his station tried to buy the rights to the Dec. 20 game but was turned away. WTAJ will broadcast three other Steelers games in December.

Who’s at fault?

That’s where the blame game begins. Those on both sides of the issue have postured themselves as having the best interests of consumers in mind.

Cable carriers Atlantic Broadband and Comcast say the move to block KDKA’s signal in the local market is an attempt to force the companies to expand their basic tiers of service. In doing so, both companies say it would force them to raise rates for all their customers instead of those willing to spend more for the added channels.

David Dane, vice president of Atlantic Broadband’s Pennsylvania operations, said that fewer than half of all Atlantic Broadband customers in the region subscribe to the extended tier that offers NFL Network.

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