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Tossing the pigskin with the NFL's Steve Bornstein

As executive vice president of media and president of the NFL Network, Steve Bornstein is one of the biggest hotshots in sports. Not only does he oversee the league's cable channel, he also handles negotiations on all NFL TV contracts. He spent his summer doing new deals with NBC and CBS as well as getting a cable deal for the NFL Network with Comcast. Not only that, he gets to go to all the games, which is pretty cool. A former chairman of ESPN and president of ABC TV, Bornstein took a break from his current headache -- trying to get Time Warner Cable to carry his channel -- to answer some questions for Company Town. An edited transcript follows:

BORNSTEIN Company Town: If America loves football and Time Warner Cable doesn't want to carry the NFL Network, does that mean they don't love America?

Steve Bornstein: That seems quite logical.

CT: Seriously, what's the hang-up with Time Warner?

Bornstein: They don't want the deal that hundreds of other cable affiliates including four out of the top five distributors have done. We have offered a fair deal and they are not interested in participating. We have over 50 million subscribers. The only one we're missing is them.

CT: Explain your new Red Zone cable channel. It sounds like a body spray. How does it work?

Bornstein: You've been watching too much TV. We think this is the ultimate companion to watching football games. We will look in at all the games occurring on Sunday afternoon and show all the meaningful highlights.

CT: Isn't that cheating? It's like reading the last page of a book first.

Bornstein: It allows fans to follow all the action going on around the league. If you are a fantasy football player, it's nirvana.

CT:Last night's game had a half-hour pregame show featuring the Black Eyed Peas, Tim McGraw, weird-looking dancers and fireworks. I didn't know if I was watching a football game or a hybrid of the MTV and CMA awards. Do you worry about alienating the meat and potatoes football fan?

Bornstein: First of all, we're about football. that was just a celebration that football is back. All the fans that have been wasting away and waiting for great entertainment now have it. It's a half-hour concert that says, "Get ready, America, we're back."

CT: There is a concern that ultimately all these league networks will end up keeping all their games for themselves. Is that the secret plan? You can tell me.

BORNSTEINSTUDIOBornstein: I would tell you if it was, but it isn't. We put the best product out there. We have a commitment to free TV.

CT: The bulk of your TV deals expire in 2014. Will you be able to boost your rights fees?

Bornstein: We have demonstrated a history of growing the quality of content. This is truly the best aggregator of large audiences, and I continue to believe that is going to be important. We expect everything to get better.

CT: Will the Sunday Ticket package that lets people watch any game they want ever be available on cable or is it always going to be satellite-exclusive?

Bornstein:We've had a long, fulfilling relationship with DirecTV, and we think that helps us strike the right balance.

CT: When there is no football, what do you put on the NFL Network?

Bornstein: The good news is there is always something going on. Whether it is the combine, the draft, trades, free agency or training camps, there is constant interest in this. In May, June and July our ratings were up.

CT: I'm a Redskins fan. What advice would you give me for this season?

Bornstein: I think you should be very excited.

CT: Very political answer.

Bornstein: What do you want from me?

-- Joe Flint

Photos: Top Right: Steve Bornstein. Credit: National Football League. Bottom left: Bornstein at NFL Network studio. Credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

 
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CT: Isn't it unfair for Time Warner Cable subscribers who don't watch the NFL to have to get an increase in their bills if TWC starts carrying the NFL Network?

Bornstein: I don't understand, subscribers who "don't want to watch"? Everyone loves the NFL.

CT: Let's say I'm a Steelers fan living in San Diego, isn't it stupid to charge me for for the whole NFL Sunday Ticket package for 80 bucks a month if I just want to watch Steelers games?

Bornstein: We believe the NFL Sunday Ticket is the best deal for our fans.

CT: Is it fair to punish a city ravaged by the recession by blacking out home games of their teams just because most people can't afford to buy tickets anymore?

Bornstein: Our blackout policy is non-negotiable, whether there's a recession, depression, Ebola epedemic or terrorist attack.

CT: Naturally. Thank you for the interview Mr. Bornstein.

Bornstein: Thank you.

Good questions that pretty much all real fans are wondering. Of course, he went with the typical PR friendly, vanilla answers but kudos for trying.


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