Friday, November 14, 2008

If The Jets Beat The Patriots, And No One Was Watching...

Thursday night, the Jets got to get a real look at Brett Favre for the first time since he joined them. Sure, they've won six other games Favre threw six touchdowns in one of them and won another by 44. But this was one of the bigger games in regular season franchise history: on the road, tied for first, at New England, in the latter half of the season. And from what I've read, Farve was his usual spectacular self. Of course it wasn't on TV, so how would I know?

This was the second of the NFL network's eight televised games this season. Few people really noticed that they missed the Browns and Broncos last week, but this one hurt a little. You may remember from last year (when the debate got hot) and the year before that the NFL network is not carried on most cable companies so a huge majority of football fans cannot watch their programming.

The reason for the debate is that the NFL wants its network to be carried on basic cable like, for instance, ESPN. If placed there, they maximize their viewership and can charge boatloads more for advertising. However, the cable companies do not think that the channel is a viable choice for their basic packages since it is niche programming, it will fit better in their sports packages, and it is too expensive. The cable companies will have to pay the NFL network for the programming, so they will have to raise rates for their customers. Their argument is that rates should not raise for all basic cable customers, rather only the customers who want this channel. Clearly at some point, someone will notice that the way to solve this is a la carte pricing for cable. Until then, we are stuck.

Dish and DirecTV both bought into the NFL network and offer the channel on their basic services. But only around 20% of homes in the U.S. have satellite (and that number is a high estimate).

As a pretty big sports fan, I can say whole-heartedly that I do not want to be forced to pay extra for the NFL network and am thrilled that the cable companies haven't bowed to the NFL's pressure. So I missed last night's game. Bummer. But if I was paying for this network, that would be three-and-a-half hours of program I watched, followed by 164.5 hours till next week's game that I wouldn't watch. And next week is Cincy vs. Pittsburgh which I wouldn't watch. In fact, the only other game this season I might watch on NFL network is Arizona at Philly, but it is on Thanksgiving day, so I'd probably miss it anyway.

The NFL network folks like to say that for the price of a cup of coffee a week, you could get 24-hour NFL coverage. The problem is that makes 3.5 hours I want, and 8756.5 hours I don't this year. No thanks. Either put it into the sports package and let sports fan pay the bill or just put the games On Demand and I'll buy them individually (which is also where TV programming is going).

The funniest part of this debate is last season in Week 17: the Giants played the Pats with the undefeated regular season on the line, the Giants playing their starters in a "meaningless game," New York vs. Boston, etc. etc. There was so much of a stink raised around the country about that game only airing on 1-in-5ish TVs, that Congress stepped in and told the NFL network that they were being stupid and forced them to air the game on network TV as well.

So the moral of the story is that while most of us can't get this channel, if we really cared we would make it happen and still not have to pay for it.

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