The NFL is staring down the major cable companies over games shown on NFL Network.
The way NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sees it, the dispute between the NFL Network and several cable carriers who refuse to carry the channel is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Disappointed NFL fans around the country weren’t able to see Thursday’s Packers-Vikings game because the NFL can’t come to an agreement with carriers such as Time Warner about how their product should be offered to the public.
Goodell knows the public is angry. He’s frustrated, too.
“We’re upset about it not being on on a broader basis. One of the things that the NFL is most proud of, is the fact that we go to the broadest possible audience,” Goodell said. “We are the only sports league to put all of our games on free television and into the home markets and into the visiting markets, and we’re proud of that, and we think it’s been a great part of our success. We’re as upset with the cable operators and their inability for us to get that distribution, so we share the pain of the fans around here.”
According to Goodell, the NFL wants its network available on basic cable packages, while the cable companies want to put it on a more expensive package. “What cable operators are asking us to do is to put our games on a digital sports tier, which is a very small universe,” Goodell said. “What they will then do is charge the consumers a significant amount of money to drive that digital sports tier. We don’t want to do that. We want to be on the broadest possible tier. We want everyone to see our product.”
The cable companies’ contention is that in order to add NFL Network to basic cable packages, they would have to significantly raise the monthly rate of subscribers.
Goodell said he believes cable operators eventually are going to realize that the NFL Network is something that they can’t withhold from consumers. “We believe our fans are looking for football 365 days a year,” Goodell said. “There is a very clear track record for a demand for our product.”
Goodell is right, I think, and he will eventually win this fight. Because cable no longer operates a monopoly in most markets, the pressure will intensify to carry NFL Network, as disgruntled fans move to Dish or DirecTV to avoid missing out on these games.
The NFL would be operating from a stronger position of principle, though, if they didn’t have a long-term exclusivity deal with DirecTV for NFL Sunday Ticket. In our on-demand era, fans have a reasonable expectation that they be able to get any game at any time. Forcing them to switch to a specific satellite television provider to get that flies in the face of that. While I’m a reasonably satisfied DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket customer, and have been for five seasons now, there are people who can’t pick up a satellite signal, whose broadband Internet service is tied to cable, or otherwise don’t want to make that switch.
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