This Thanksgiving for me was marked by family, good food, and of course, competing with the rest of the family for Czar’s affections. Alas, though, one little thing nearly spoiled the good vibes.
The New York Jets-Cincinnati Bengals matchup, the only one the four of us really cared about, was on the NFL Network, which is currently not available on most cable blocks. (The notable exception is AT&T U-Verse by the way.) I have Time Warner Cable, where it is an a la carte option, though I am still scouring the cable guide trying to find it (I won’t pay for it until I can find it). Comcast offers it in a sports block with MLB Network and NBATV, neither of which really appeal to me, though ironically enough, both come with my current package with Time Warner.
The problem with the NFL and the NFL Network is that, in an era where Twentieth Century Fox*, NBC**, ESPN***, and other major corporations are threatening to pull their stations from cable companies, thus denying viewers those stations, it all comes off as greedy, and the NFL is no different. I honestly do not know why they feel like fans should have to pay to watch NFL Network beyond the basic, and already high, price of cable. MLB Network and NBATV are slowly becoming more accessible, and the NFL is starting to lag behind.
The major problem is that the NFL reserves several games for the NFL Network, talk about a conflict of interest. A few years ago, I went over to the Grad, which was packed to the rafters with people who wanted to watch the Packers and Cowboys, both undefeated at the time, battle for NFC supremacy. Why was the Grad filled to the rafters? Because no one in Davis had NFL Network. Granted, the Grad benefited greatly; they made more money off of food and booze in that one night than they do when the place is packed on a normal Sunday.
Now, I think John Kerry was out of line when he strong-armed the NFL into simulcasting the Giants-Patriots Saturday Night Game in December of 2007, though I did enjoy the game, even though my Giants lost, and the Pats went 16-0, leading to the dramatic Giants victory in the Super Bowl a month later. That said, the NFL needs to open it up a little. The NFL needs to remember where it makes its money; from CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN, but even more so from the fans, who will watch the NFL Network in droves if it is available to them. I would actually watch some of the NFL Combine if it were available to me, but is not. Yes, some of the in-depth, “I can’t believe there are statistics for this stuff” statistics are a bit much (something I learned when watching the MLB Network analysts debating potential Cy Young winners), but for uber-fans, and even fans like me, who fall just short of that mark, it is fun to watch grown men get red-faced over things that, in the long run, are not that important.
In short, I want the NFL to negotiate to open up access to the NFL Network. I am considering switching to DirecTV for NFL Sunday ticket, which would make my entire argument a moot point, but for all the fans, I believe this the proper move.
*In a few cities, 20th Century Fox made headlines when they actually pulled service in several areas. The situation was eventually resolved.
**The major exception is Comcast, currently in the process of buying NBC Universal.
***The reason why I nearly went with satellite over cable; ESPN nearly pulled service from Time Warner. They reached an “interim” agreement which kept service going, and eventually reached a permanent agreement.