YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Military members who live off base must buy AFN satellite service if they want to watch NFL action this year, officials announced during an Area II radio town hall meeting Monday.

National Football League games will not be broadcast on American Forces Network’s Prime Pacific-Korea because about 50 South Korean cable companies intercept the signal and offer it as part of their paid service, according to Lt. Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, commander of American Forces Network-Korea.

Lawhorn, in a phone interview later Tuesday, explained that the problem boils down to broadcast rights and referred to a statement from American Forces Radio and Television Service headquarters in Riverside, Calif.

“Scheduling sports on AFN Prime Pacific continues to be problematic because many events are restricted from over-the-air broadcast in Korea by the distributors,” according to the statement. “In addition, there are currently more than 50 local Korean cable companies that are illegally pirating our programming from the over-the-air broadcasts of AFN Prime. Adding more sports to that channel jeopardizes our already delicate broadcast rights negotiations.”

Lawhorn explained that AFRTS sends the Prime Pacific signal to South Korea, where his staff inserts local command information — such as Korea-specific commercials and news programming — before rebroadcasting it as Prime Pacific-Korea. That signal is broadcast openly over the air, so servicemembers can monitor the channel for emergency information without having to use a satellite dish.

And since the NFL is trying to market its product in South Korea, it doesn’t want the local cable companies to be able to offer the games for free via the pirated AFN signal, Lawhorn explained during the radio show.

To watch the games, ration-card holders in South Korea must pay for the satellite dish and rent the service monthly through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. The dish costs about $80. The decoder costs $25 a month, which must be paid using a Military Star Card credit card.

Lawhorn said he thinks most people will understand the reasoning behind moving the NFL games off Prime Pacific-Korea.

He also said he believes that the Super Bowl — as well as a few Friday night games — might make their way onto the channel.

“If a Friday night game does come up, I would not be surprised to see AFRTS” broadcast on Saturday morning in place of the usual college game it shows, Lawhorn said.

And as a self-proclaimed football fan, he said he understands the situation.

“I apologize to the community,” he said.

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