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Posted by on Nov 14, 2008 in Media | 11 comments

How the NFL Network is Destroying America

football.jpgEver since the National Football League made the self centered, cash grabbing decision to launch the NFL Network, fans of various teams around the country have had to resign themselves to the idea that, for at least one week out of the season, they would be robbed of a chance to support their team. This week it was supporters of the New York Jets and the New England Patriots who were forced to take their turn in the barrel. Last night’s battle pitted two historic rivals who were tied for first place in the AFC Eastern Division against each other, both having a legitimate playoff shot. The game turned into an action-packed shootout, with regulation play closing out on an incredible touchdown pass by the Pats just as the final seconds ticked off the clock, sending them into overtime. The Jets managed yet another charge down the field under the generalship of Brett Favre, setting them up for a game-winning field goal.

Of course, if you were one of the millions of football fanatics in America living in an area where your cable company doesn’t carry the NFL Network – or if you happen to be one of the even larger number who refuse to pay blackmail funds for access to eight Thursday night games per year – you didn’t see it. In the eyes of the NFL, the fans are no longer the reason for the season. The game isn’t played for its ardent supporters in each franchise today. Those fans are seen as nothing but a revolving ATM which the league management will try to raid for as much cash as they can and as frequently as possible. The already bloated fat cats at the NFL have worked to strong arm the nation’s cable companies into carrying their network (charging them premium fees to do so) and putting the channel on the basic service rack. The cable companies, not wishing to allow these corporate bullies to hustle them out of business, are left with three choices. They can not carry the service at all, (the choice made by my provider) charge extra for the channel as a premium service, or jack up everyone’s rates for basic cable to cover the pound of flesh demanded by the League.

Even the most devout fans are unlikely to want to shell out additional cash each month for a service which they will possibly watch on eight Thursday nights during the second half of the regular season. And one can only imagine how happy non-football watching households (there are a few left, you know) will be about having their rates jacked up just so this largely irrelevant slot shows up in their cable directory. Small wonder that many cable companies are willing to simply pass on it and put up with the occasional howls of protest from subscribers during the one week when the home team gets targeted this way. (You can see some typical reactions from fans here.)

And please, don’t even get me started on “other alternatives” such as watching the game live at the NFL.com website. Here’s one fan who already put it much as I would. (From the previous link.)

Yes, if you don’t mind them constantly cutting to three talking heads in a studio.. even when the game is going on. 3 pontificating idiots, not even really talking about the actual game itself. It was the most frustrating experience in the viewing of sports. You’re better off streaming a local radio station in your team’s market than being stuck listening to three clowns talking over the game, not letting you watch the game, because the idiots need camera time.

The NFL seems to be testing the waters to see if they can move closer and closer to making professional football into a pay-per-view event. You can see how well that worked out for boxing. If the NFL can’t manage to control the costs of their operation and the outrageous spending and salaries of the individual teams, this isn’t the problem of the fans, and we shouldn’t have to pay for their errors or their greed. The year of the great baseball strike injured that sport’s reputation severely and they never fully recovered. If the NFL wants to go down the same road, it’s their decision, but it’s also a sad day for a great American tradition.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • Guest

    Well written, Jazz — but then, I’m biased. My day job is with one of the cable TV companies that’s standing up to the NFL Network, saying “No. If you want these games on the most widely purchased tiers of service — then leave them where they belong on broadcast TV or basic cable networks.” Oddly enough, for once, I think customers would agree that the cable guys are actually wearing the white hats in this battle.

    • Pabel, it’s absolutely NOT the fault of the cable companies. In my view, cable television is now operating in a healthy, competitive market against dish networks and, increasingly, internet entertainment options. This has led them to keep their rates as low as they can manage while remaining profitable and offering an increasingly diverse range of services and choices as the technology advances. No, the culprits here are the NFL and the blame falls squarely on them. They had a sweet deal going where the major networks bid against each other for the right to cover and carry the games. And luck for us, cable companies already carried all of those networks. But now the NFL wants to be so greedy that they are trying to grab every cent of the advertising revenue stream for themselves. To do so, they have attempted to launch themselves into an industry they are ill equipped to handle and providing sub-par coverage and commentary while screwing over the fans who make the entire industry possible.

  • Uncular1

    I didn’t see any condemnation about ABC/Disney moving Monday Night Football to ESPN. IMO this was a bigger slap to football fans. MNF is an American tradition and while ESPN may be basic cable it still ain’t free.
    Please don’t tell me to ‘just pay for cable’, because isn’t going from no cable to basic cable a similar (if not greater) expense than ‘charging for a premium service’.
    You know, your other option is to switch to Directv who include NFL network in their lower priced tiers.

    • It’s true that the move to ESPN was also a slap and a move in the wrong direction. Truth be told, of course, ESPN is available in a LOT more of the country than TNFLN, so it’s not as big of a pain to as many I suppose. The number of households using an antenna for television reception is growing pretty thin, and getting thinner. I think we’re approaching the point where, while it may be kind of sad, insisting that sports only be carried on networks accessible to antenna audiences may not be practical. You can only cater to the lowest common technological denominator for so long. But this is really apples and oranges. One is a case of people unfortunately not having access to or choosing to not pay for the technology. The other is a situation which is totally controllable by the NFL and their choice to move content which has little chance of becoming widely available on the existing technology for market driven reasons.

  • JEFFJAGUAR

    You miss the point as so many do. You can’t divorce this from the arrogance the NFL showed several years ago by making Sunday Ticket a directv exclusive.

    The facts are simple. Directv is not available to over 50% of the population who lack the proper southwest exposure or have blocking objects such as trees or taller building in the way. The result is the cable providers have already lost their most ardent NFL fans able to get directv; the rest blame the NFL not the cable providers because they can’t purchase Sunday Ticket. This 8 game schedule is looked on as a second rate package which it is. Besides which, six of the games in this package were always on free television before the NFL Network pulled its garbage. They are the two triple headers that for years were part of the last two Saturdays of the season.

    Contrast this with what happend with mlb which was going to drink the same directv kool aid with Extra Innings. Luckily for all of us, Senator Kerry interceded and mlb tried to cover its tracks by claiming it wasn’t the directv money but rather their agreement to carry mlb network. This gave the cable networks the opening to say, okay we’ll carry mlb network on basic as long as you allow us to offer Extra Innings. Bingo…end of problem for everybody.

    The fact is the NFL, in its short sighted deal with directv, has only itself to blame. Why should the cable networks give up the only leverage they have to make sure that when this exclusive with directv expires in 2011, the NFL will be forced, if they want to make a deal to carry their network and all the money they hope to make with it, to open up Sunday Ticket and make the same kind of deal mlb did. I just don’t see how the cable networks can give in and lose this leverage; especially after the NFL cost them so many subscribers with this exclusive deal with directv.

    So, we will all have to wait till 2012 when the NFL will be forced to open up Sunday Ticket and then, as JIm Dolan of Cablevision has indicated, the cable networks will agree to carry NFL Network in return for the right to offer Sunday Ticket. It’s that simple.

    BTW I don’t see any way the NFL can win its case against comcast. They signed a contract with comcast in which comcast agreed to carry NFL Network on basic provided the NFL either gave them the right to Sunday Ticket or gave them the 8 game package for Versus to become more competitive. Failing that, the NFL did agree that comcast could carry NFL Network on a sports tier. This contract expires after the 2009 season as I understand it after which the NFL Network will not probably be available even on a sports tier on Comcast.

    But the only ones at fault here is the arrogance of the NFL>

  • superdestroyer

    Anyone who does not have cable to get ESPN is not really a sports fan. The baseball playoffs were on TBS. The NBA playoffs are on ESPN and TNT.

    What the sports teams are doing are limiting themsleves to their current fans. How many people will develop an interest in football if they have to pay to watch the games. That is why the local team is always on local television.

    Also, the NFL has to realize that it is going to be hurt by changing demographics. Hispanics and Asians are not natural football fans. It they have to pay to watch the games, they will not become fans. I know the NFL is making money but the long term situation it is in is not that good.

    Last, sports franchises can also forget about getting new stadiums in the next few years.

  • Don Quijote

    About Time!!!

    Why should I pay so that you can watch football for free?

    You want to watch football, pay for it!

  • Don Quijote

    About Time!!!

    Why should I pay so that you can watch football for free?

    You want to watch football, pay for it!

  • Don Quijote

    Oh, and while we are at it, can I have Cable and Dish a la carte, why should I have to give a penny to FOX News or ESPN for that matter?

  • superdestroyer

    ALa CArte pricing would kill cable and the satellite companies. If I have to pay to see a new show, the chances to way down. Ala Carte would as likely kill PBS than Fox News.

  • Don Quijote

    ALa CArte pricing would kill cable and the satellite companies.

    Why? It might kill some channels, but how is that my problem? If ESPN, FOX, FX, MTV, TBS and quite a few other cable networks go belly up tomorrow, how is that my problem, I rarely watch them despite the fact that I have to pay for them.

    If I have to pay to see a new show, the chances to way down. Ala Carte would as likely kill PBS than Fox News.

    A) A la Carte is per channel and not per show and over the air channels would still be available over the air.

    B) An A la carte per show would be even better, give a ten to twenty episode season of MADMEN, Life on Mars, Dr Who, 4400, Primeval, Torchwood at a reasonable price ($5 to $10), drop your show on my DVR at the beginning of the week and I’ll be happy. I get to pay for what I want to watch, not subsidize propaganda outlets, or sports in which I have zero interest.

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