As far as Senate hearings go, Thurs’ Judiciary panel on vertically integrated sports programming was pretty exciting: Sen Arlen Specter (R-PA) pledged to introduce legislation next year to take away the NFL’s antitrust exemption and threw around the words "subpoena" and "Cablevision" in the same sentence. "Wouldn’t consumers be better off if sports teams were negotiating their own [rights] as opposed to having all the bargaining rights under the NFL?" Specter asked, later complaining that the League is exerting its power "right down to the last nickel." The senator had a laundry list of NFL concerns: its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket deal with DirecTV, the Thurs-Sat package on NFL Net and the shift of Mon Night Football to ESPN. How far such a bill would go is unclear as Specter loses his chairmanship next month to Patrick Leahy (D-VT). An NFL spokesman said the League has discussed many issues with Specter for 20 years and is sensitive to his concerns. "NFL Sunday Ticket and NFL Network support consumer choice, as well as broader competition in the overall television market," he said. "There is no basis now to repeal statutory provisions that have supported the development of these pro-consumer and pro-fan policies." Comcast evp David Cohen didn’t voice support for repealing the antitrust exemption, saying instead that Congress should look at putting conditions on it. As for Cablevision, Specter said he was unhappy the MSO didn’t participate in the hearing (he wanted to drill into its YES dealings at one point). "I’m sorry that Cablevision did not send a witness here… They had no understandable reason why they didn’t," Specter said, suggesting he could subpoena the MSO. "We apologize for any misunderstanding and did not intend in any way to offend the Senator," CVC said Thurs. "Based on our understanding of the hearing, we believe our views on these important issues were well represented by the cable industry participants. In the instance of the NFL Network, our primary concern is that our customers are able to see every NFL game that features the NY Jets and Giants, in addition to all the other national and playoff games carried on FOX, CBS, NBC and ESPN, and they can."

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Programming

ESPN is activating its MegaCast production for the NFL Wild Card presentation (taking place Jan 9 or 10). ESPN and ABC will simulcast the Wild Card game, and ESPN2 and Freeform

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