NEW YORK (AP) -The NFL Network will appeal a judge's ruling that Comcast, the nation's largest cable television operator, can distribute the channel separate from its digital package.
State Supreme Court Justice Bernard J. Fried ruled earlier this month that Comcast can place the NFL Network on a less-popular niche level that has far fewer viewers than the digital level.
``The final word on this issue is most likely going to come from the appellate courts,'' NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. ``If this decision is upheld, the biggest harm will be to consumers. They will have to pay more for less.''
The NFL owns the network, which was launched in 2003 and began showing live late-season games last season. It also has full coverage of the NFL draft and the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and game, plus 24-hour NFL programming.
Last October, the league sued after Comcast decided to put the network on a sports tier with about 750,000 viewers, moving it from a digital tier with more than 7 million viewers.
Comcast said it intends to move the NFL Network to a sports tier for the 2007 season.
The NFL opposed the switch because under an agreement Comcast had to pay the league 55 cents per subscriber each month. With the loss of viewers, the NFL would earn significantly less money.
Comcast said it didn't want to charge customers the extra money for the NFL programming they might not want in the digital tier.
``We bargained explicitly for the right to place the NFL Network on a sports tier because it is the best and fairest solution for all our customers,'' David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp., said in a statement Thursday. ``This decision means that our customers who are NFL fans will be able to watch the NFL Network without burdening those who are not NFL fans with extra costs.''

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