Monday, December 31, 2007

The Pointless NFL Network

The other day, football fans had a real treat: the Patriots, trying for a perfect season, were visiting the New York Giants, who had nothing on the line, but nonetheless played a magnificent game, almost, but not quite, derailing New England, thus leaving the storybook ending intact.

The game originally was scheduled to air only on the NFL's in-house cable network, which reaches only 40% of U.S. households. The NFL tried to use the game to bludgeon cable providers into caving into the NFL's obscene demands for carrying their network, but few budged. So, at the last moment, the NFL relented and allowed the game to be carried on both NBC and CBS (and in the New York local market, on ABC too).

But the game announcers and promotional ads were supplied by the NFL Network, so viewers who hadn't previously had a chance to tune in got a sample of what they were missing.

Which turns out to be: NOTHING.

The NFL Network was conceived by rich men to make them richer. But it's a rip-off, and the cable providers should continue to resist. In a nutshell, here's what the NFL Network has to offer: about 8 football games a year, a few worth seeing. The rest is nothing--re-runs; re-runs of re-runs; commentary; and just plain silliness.

You'd have to be a hard-core football addict--no, you'd have to be a mentally impaired hard-core football addict (or a professional football player)--to find anything on the NFL Network worth watching the rest of the year.

Still, the NFL insists that it's network should be placed on a par with other cable premium channels--and not relegated to a fee-based "sports tier." As part of their argument, the football heads at the NFL say, well there's a channel for women, and a channel for golf, and a channel for cartoons, etc. so why not a channel for football.

First, it's not a football channel. Second, a channel like the Golf Channel has appeal to the millions of people who happen to PLAY golf. There's only about 1000 people who play professional football. Third, these other channels have a reasonably full slate of shows to watch--certainly more than roughly 32 hours of prime TV (that's 8 four-hour football games) per year. Fourth, many of these cable channels carry programming you wouldn't get on the broadcast networks--not so the NFL Network--NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX, they ALL carry NFL football.

Instead, the NFL Network wants to compete with the hand that feeds it, and force all of us to pay (indirectly--they want the cost hidden) for something we already get for "free" (if you can suffer through three minutes of beer and car commercials both before and after each kick-off).

And it's not as if the NFL Network is offering commercial free games--now that might be worth something!

Now the NFL Network's "season" is over. Call your cable provider and tell them: you don't want this scam of a cable channel, at least not in the basic or premium cable tier. Clearly, those few who just cannot get enough NFL already are ready, willing and able to PAY for it themselves.

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