NFL viewers running out of options

Plan on watching the Vikings-Packers game Dec. 21? Well, unless you have a ticket to the game at Lambeau Field, you better hook up a satellite dish or plan on heading down to a local drinking establishment that has one or you'll be out of luck. M...

Plan on watching the Vikings-Packers game Dec. 21?

Well, unless you have a ticket to the game at Lambeau Field, you better hook up a satellite dish or plan on heading down to a local drinking establishment that has one or you'll be out of luck.

Minnesota's game at Green Bay -- which may mean nothing more than bragging rights considering how each team's season is going -- is part of an eight-game package on the NFL Network, which is not available on Charter Communications. Those games begin with a Thanksgiving Night clash between AFC West rivals Denver and Kansas City.

Fans in the Twin Ports will not have the option of watching any of those games on cable TV. Charter, which owns cable rights in this area, along with industry giants Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, have not reached deals with the NFL to broadcast the Thursday and Saturday night games. That includes the Dec. 21 contest between the Vikings and Packers.

Though KSTP-TV will show that game in the Twin Cities -- the NFL allows designated local markets to air games involving their teams -- Duluth and Superior are not considered local markets.


"I made that very call to Fox and they told me we could not carry that game,'' KQDS-TV Channel 21 general manager Dave Hileman said Tuesday. "They consider Minneapolis and Green Bay the local markets.

"My argument's always been this is the Minnesota Vikings, not the Minneapolis Vikings."

NFL executives apparently are a bit geographically challenged. Perhaps they think Duluth, one of the NFL's earliest franchises, is now part of the Canadian Football League.

So unless Charter and the NFL strike a deal, fans' only options are DirecTV and the Dish Network. Cable companies, such as Charter, have argued that they likely would have to pass along the cost of televising those games to their subscribers, an unappetizing option since basic rates already top $40 per month.

The NFL Network advises people to contact their local cable provider to influence them to carry the games. Good luck. Getting ahold of a Charter management representative is akin to finding Amelia Earhart or Jimmy Hoffa.

Another option is to watch the game at a local tavern. There's no dearth of those across the bridge and Wisconsin residents are not opposed to ponying up to the bar, so pub owners can expect to do good business that night.

"I think it would be a good day. It's a good day when it's a normal Vikings-Packers game,'' said Dave Buhr, owner of Goodsports Bar & Grill in Superior, which has a big-screen TV among its 38 TVs. "Even when [just] the Packers are on satellite, we fill up for that."

Other bar owners may not be so lucky. Alan Jaques, owner of Belknap Liquor & Lounge in Superior, has yet to add the NFL Network. He says the NFL Sunday Ticket package costs him $1,400 and it might not be profitable to add another package for only eight games, though he plans on doing it anyway.


Jaques sympathizes with the cable companies' plight.

"I can understand them because they would have to bump up [the price of cable] even for the little old granny that doesn't want to watch football," he said.

But now the little old granny who does want to watch the Vikings and Packers play may be forced to do so in a crowded bar full of drunken Cheeseheads.

* The Minnesota Gophers' Dec. 29 appearance in the Insight Bowl against an undetermined Big 12 opponent in Tempe, Ariz., also will be aired by the NFL Network.

cbs3 issues apology

For those Packers' fans perturbed by CBS' decision to pull the plug on Sunday's Green Bay-New England game, CBS3 station manager Dave Jensch promises it won't happen again.

Early in the fourth quarter of New England's 35-0 blowout of the Packers, the network, with little warning, decided to switch to a more competitive game between Cincinnati and New Orleans.

That didn't go over very well in Superior.


Jensch said his station fielded about 40 complaints, enough for him to issue an on-air apology Monday.

The problem's genesis occurred weeks beforehand when CBS3 officials failed to inform the network that it wanted to carry the game on what's termed "constant coverage," a new innovation that prevents the network from switching games at a moment's notice in a home market.

Jensch said he told CBS that his station expects Packers' and Vikings' games always to be on constant coverage from now on.

"It is entirely a CBS thing,'' Jensch said. "CBS apologized profusely to us. We expect to be treated like a Wisconsin station during Packer games and to be treated like a Minnesota station during Viking games."

twins to remain on kdal

Though the Minnesota Twins will have a new flagship radio station for the first time in their 46-year existence next year, the team's 162 regular-season games still can be heard on KDAL-AM 610 in the Twin Ports.

KDAL will remain a member of the Twins Radio Network through at least the 2009 season.

The Twins' partnership with WCCO-AM 830 in the Twin Cities ended after this season. Next season's games will air on KSTP-AM 1500.


RICK WEEGMAN can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at

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