Armstrong Cable to air Browns-Steelers locally

By Rick Rouan

The provider reached a multi-year deal with the NFL Network.

The second clash between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be blacked out for some local cable customers after all.

Armstrong Cable and the NFL Network announced a “multi-year” deal Monday to bring eight National Football League games, including the second Browns-Steelers game, exclusive to the channel to local televisions.

The cable company has aired the channel since 2005, but not the eight games the network began broadcasting in 2006. Now Armstrong customers with digital cable will have access to those games.

How customer’s cable rates will change is unclear, but an Armstrong executive said they would not change this year.

“We’re going to review, as we do annually, what our rates need to adjust to based on the overall programming we have and the cost,” said David Wittman, Armstrong’s vice president for cable marketing.

Wittman said that the NFL Network deal does present increased costs, but customers won’t see higher rates until the first quarter of 2010.

The amount Armstrong is paying the NFL Network is not being released, Wittman said, because of confidentiality agreements in the contract.

The NFL Network is carried on the digital tier of Armstrong Cable, which costs $12.45 on top of the $51.45 basic cable charge. Upgrading to high definition channels, including the NFL Network, costs an additional $8.95.

The new deal, according to a press release, includes the eight primetime regular season games and all preseason games. Most of the regular season games aired on NFL Network are on Thursday, but this year includes games on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first game is Nov. 12 when the Chicago Bears play the San Francisco 49ers.

Not carrying the games has been a point of local controversy as previous matchups between the Browns and Steelers have been blacked out on local televisions. Youngstown falls in the middle of the two cities, which are separated by 115 miles.

Without a deal, that scenario could have played out again on Dec. 10 when the division rivals meet in Cleveland.

Armstrong serves customers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland, according to a press release.

“We serve some of the most avid NFL fans in America and are pleased to continue offering our customers the most in-depth coverage of NFL football,” said Jeff Ross, president of Armstrong, in a prepared statement released to the media.

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