Spygate Remains in Limbo

Remember how it looked like Matt Walsh’s day before the NFL jury was imminent? A lot can change in 24 hours. The NFL put out a release on Sunday indicating its lawyers and Walsh’s lawyers were close to a deal. But late yesterday afternoon, ESPN reported that was premature.

There are obviously a lot of moving parts here. The NFL doesn’t want any further embarrassment. The Patriots certainly don’t want any further embarrassment or anything that could cause Roger Goodell to impose stricter penalties on their franchise. But then, this isn’t really about videotaping signals.

Yesterday, NFL Films announced it was laying off 21 of its 283 employees. The company, based across the river from Philadelphia in New Jersey, has been a mom-and-pop shop operating within the NFL’s huge corporate behemoth. Layoffs have not been part of its language.

HBO’s decision to cancel Inside the NFL was blamed in part on the layoffs, but the suspicion is the fight between Comcast and the NFL has a lot more to do with it. To review: The NFL wants its network to be part of Comcast and Time Warner’s basic cable services. The cable companies have insisted on making it a premium pay channel.

Far from being the cash cow the NFL owners envisioned, the NFL Network has sputtered along on a pay tier.

“The network is making money, but not nearly as much as the owners want,” the GM said. “And that’s primarily because of this standoff with Comcast and Time Warner. The subscription number [for NFLN] is nowhere near what they expected at this point.”

Goodell went before Congress to plead his case that the cable companies were screwing with his league, and he was essentially dismissed, while a Time Warner exec noted the NFL’s exclusive agreement with DirectTV for its Sunday Ticket package. And we know, Sen. Arlen Specter, the man driving the Walsh testimony, has a vested interest in helping the cable giant.

In the interim, the NFL and the Patriots wait for what a fired ex-employee may or may not have in his possession.