Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Want My N-F-L Network

I’m a big pro football fan, which means I’m a pawn.

I’m a pawn because I would love to have NFL Network in my home but can’t get it.

I would love to watch my San Francisco 49ers play (beat?) the Chicago Bears tonight on NFL Network without being surrounded by vile, loudmouthed drunks at a sports bar.

But I can’t do it.

Why not?

My local cable supplier, Cablevision of Westchester (New York), does not offer NFL Network.

Why not?

Cablevision and NFL Network have never been able to agree on an annual rights fee per subscriber, which is how cable networks make money.

Sports cable networks command more money per subscriber than general interest cable networks because sports networks deliver to advertisers the coveted 18-to-49 male demographic.

ESPN, for example, can get $2.80 per subscriber per year from Cablevision while CNN gets about 70 cents per subscriber per year.

Sports networks call the tune.

And sports fans get the shaft.

Since Cablevision refuses to pay what NFL Network wants per subscriber per year, pawns like me cannot get NFL Network.

Other football fans with different cable subscribers (e.g., Comcast) or satellite TV (e.g., Dish Network or DirecTV) can watch 49ers vs. Bears at home.

I can’t.

So why don’t I just get satellite TV?

I live in a Yonkers co-op that doesn’t allow satellite dishes.

“They’re ugly,” the co-op board says. “Dishes detract from the aesthetic beauty of the building.”

(Actually, there’s nothing aesthetically beautiful about my building, but that’s another issue.)

Fans are pawns because the major sports leagues know they can increase their revenues and exercise greater control over their message and image by creating their own networks.

That’s why we have NFL Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, MLB Network, Golf Channel and Tennis Channel.

And some of North America’s most popular teams have their own networks showing content or games you can’t see anywhere else.

The list includes YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports), Dallas Cowboys TV and Toronto Maple Leafs TV.

The problem occurs whenever fans of these leagues or teams can’t watch a game because the league-owned or team-owned network is in a dispute with a cable network or satellite company.

And this happens far more often than it should.

When YES debuted in 2002, New York Yankees fans missed more than 100 games that year because of disputes between YES and various cable/satellite networks.

Hockey fans with DirecTV can't watch NHL games on Versus because DirecTV and Comcast (which owns Versus) are in a snit over money.

Pawns like me can’t watch Tennis Channel on Cablevision because the two sides can’t agree on subscriber-rights fee.

This isn’t just a rant. I have a solution:

Any sports league that doesn’t have clearance on every cable or satellite network should offer the games on its Web site for free.

For example, I should be able to watch 49ers vs. Bears tonight online at or

I’m not talking about game highlights. I’m talking about the entire game.

Other leagues, less greedy than the NFL, are already doing this.

During the 2009 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, fans who couldn’t watch a desired game on their local CBS station watched that game free online.

Also, fans who didn’t have Tennis Channel watched U.S. Open matches free at

If the NFL weren’t so greedy—and, unfortunately, the NFL has turned greed into an art form—NFL Network games would not be offered to only a select few living rooms.

And if sports fans were not already used to being treated like pawns, they would be demanding a change.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, the NFL deserves more heat for their greedy money grabs... Their position on local blackouts is also disgraceful