Senators threaten to reconsider antitrust exemption over cable dispute

WASHINGTON -- Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the NFL on Wednesday threatening to reconsider the league's antitrust exemption if it doesn't make games on the NFL Network available to more viewers.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., expressed concern that many fans in their home states will not be able to see games on the channel involving the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Leahy is the committee's chairman, and Specter is its ranking member.

"Now that the NFL is adopting strategies to limit distribution of game programming to their own networks," they wrote, "Congress may need to reexamine the need and desirability of their continued exemption from the Nation's antitrust laws."

Eight games air this season on the NFL Network, which is available in fewer than 40 percent of the nation's homes with televisions. The league has been feuding with several major cable companies over whether they should carry the channel as part of a basic package.

Games are simulcast on free TV locally for each team, but that doesn't include regional markets such as Vermont for the Patriots or parts of Pennsylvania for the Steelers. NFL officials have repeatedly said they will not agree to any distribution arrangement that only involves games and not year-round broadcast of the channel.