Why I Hate the NFL Network

Last night the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cleveland Browns, a game between two losing teams on a freezing Thursday night.

But I couldn’t wait to watch it. The Steelers have meant a lot to me for a very long time, and my 6-year-old son Solomon has become as devoted to them as he is devoted to his family, school, and friends. We even went to Steelers’ training camp this summer, and to a Steelers game in Pittsburgh in September, against Cincinnati. Here’s the photographic evidence:

Last night’s game was on the NFL Network, the NFL’s newish channel that is broadcasting six prime-time games this season. There has been quite a bit of discussion about how cable systems have not been as receptive to carrying the NFL Network as the NFL thought they would be, potentially leaving a lot of football fans unable to see these primetime games.

I didn’t know whether or not my cable provider, RCN, carried the NFL Network. So last week, in anticipation of the Steelers-Browns game, I called and was told that yes, I received the NFL Network, on Ch. 175.

Solomon was very excited to hear this. His regular bedtime is 8 p.m., and since the game was to start at 8 p.m., he got special dispensation to stay up through at least the first quarter, and longer if the first quarter was scoreless. It was pretty much an Event, and we were all looking forward to it.

So we invited some friends over, and watched a bit of the NFL Network’s pregame show, which was pretty great. Live shots of warmups, footage of Bill Cowher yelling over the years, game analysis, etc.

And then, right after the National Anthem, Steve Sabol of NFL Films came on to introduce a 30-year-old documentary film his company made about a semi-pro football team called the Pottstown Firebirds. Interesting stuff but … where’d the game go?

After a few minutes of frantic channel-surfing, I called RCN and was told that they aren’t actually allowed to broadcast the NFL Network’s live games — only the studio shows, old films, highlight shows, etc. Apparently there are two tiers of NFL Network and the top tier (the only one that I had any interest in) was more vaporware than real, at least in NYC.

I called the NFL Network’s hotline, which instructed me to call my cable company to demand that they strike a deal with the NFL Network to carry the games. Or, as an alternative, I was advised to get a satellite dish. But I didn’t think I could dash out and get one in time for me and my son and our friends to actually see the game that the network had been advertising all week.

The only good thing to come of this was seeing how my son handled the disappointment. He just brushed it off — even though he’d been looking forward to seeing this game for about three weeks — and asked if we could follow the play-by-play on the Internet. Which we did. We all went into the office, sat around the computer screen, cheered for the Steelers, admired the NFL — and, for a night at least, hated the NFL Network.


acousticjb

juliette...try not watching your football (to include world cup) and then you have the equivalent of us not getting football. that said, i will cease to be a fan if this trend continues.

dwm

@20. As well as considerably less scoring. But "football" fans will respond by saying we Americans don't understand the grace, elegance and intricacies of the game. It's not about scoring, it's about the effort. Of course when I hear that I don't understand soccer and that if I would only spend some time watching it I would appreciate it, I feel like I'm getting set up with a date that has a "nice personality". Not much to look at, but boy is she nice!

jw

Like it or not, the NFL is the best professional sports business ever run.

Every single team makes a profit. League TV revenue sharing - salary cap = $$

The game translates incredibly well to TV, and with only 16 regular season games and instant replay it is much more entertaining than baseball or hoops.

The NFL is shrewd. They licensed their product to only one video game maker (EA) and sold NFL ticket to DirecTV exclusively. Thereby encouraging a monopoly on the product and driving competitors nuts.

Wilco

Having recently moved from The Netherlands to Canada, I am amazed by the amount of channels available on TV... Not being a big fan of television all together (and perfectly happy with peasant vision) I think that a "pay per view" solution for each and every TV show would be an ideal solution. There are four shows and a few hockey games that I like to watch and I would gladly pay a buck to view them when I want. This would theoretically remove the "my cable company does not have the station" problem all together... Or am I thinking too straight forward here?

fam

As a fan of European soccer, I've come to appreciate all the free internet streams that are available for every major (and many minor) game.

Many NFL games are also available through either sopcast or TVU, so next time you and Solomon want to watch a game that's not being broadcast locally you might very well be able to watch it online.

rlmthree

"By the way, can economics explain why some sports are highly popular on some continents and not at all on others? I can't belive just culture can explain it…"

Network effect? Everyone around you likes the sport, so to communicate with them you choose that sport to follow.

Also, I think NFL Network may be acting a bit badly with their price demands, but I side with them here because I hope it pushes the cable (and satellite, for that matter) providers to go to a la carte. Then we'll see market forces working. Per show seems pretty good, too, yeah.

rlmthree

O, and I wanted to throw in a "Go Brownies" but this week was truly truly disgusting.

mb11

The NFL Network is holding NJ/Kansas college football fans hostage as well. Rutgers vs Kansas State in the brand new "Texas Bowl" will be broadcast on the NFL Network on Dec. 28. Most cable companies in NJ do not have NFL Network. Unlike the NFL, where local markets are permitted to broadcast their games locally, the NFL Network has no such provision for its college offerings. http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061211/OPINION/612110304/1046

jon

@12
You said/

"Of course I DO have a choice (and so do you…). I can subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket on DirectTV. Then I can be assured I can see any and all NFL games I want..between that and what is broadcast on local affiliates."

Try getting your building in New York, or most any other apartment building to allow you to put up a satellite dish.
Direct TV is simply not an option for many people.
Or, if you are lucky enough to live in building that allows one to put up a dish, you have to hope that you have clear line of sight, a south facing apartment, and no bad weather during the big game.

echalom

Other have said something like this, but here's my take (as someone who loves NFL football and has Cablevision, so does not get the NFL Network): it's not fair to criticize the NFL when you consider the alternative -- if this were last year, the game would have been on Sunday afternoon and you could not have watched it unless it was your regional game. The NFL has not taken anything away from viewers by putting games on its network on Thursday nights. It has only given something to some (but not all) viewers. If it feels that it needs an additional fee to be able to give that extra something, hard to see how we can argue.

So blame your cable company (I know I do). Or accept that you're watching just as many games as last year. But don't complain that it's unfair for the NFL not to give you something for nothing.

noel

I only pay 56 bucks for two television satellite hook up (no movie channels but full NFL Network and the Big Ten Network to !). I am so sorry some of you live in New York and cannot have a dish. Really sorry too for the chap with 14 televisions. We switched providers 4 years ago specifically to get the NFL Network. If you don't subscribe to Sunday Ticket you won't see all the games anyway- only the offerings by your local Fox and CBS outfit. So far this year there have not been any of the scary weather related issues the cable companies are always using to scare frighten people. Switch Providers or quit whining.

Tom Henry

Let's shed some real light on this subject. This post from the website owner does a great job.

http://ispgeeks.com/wild/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=3339#3339

Steve Eustis

Who advertises on the NFL Network? Let's put pressure on the advertisers. For example, if Ford Motor is an advertiser, I'll tell my local Ford Dealer the reason i bought the Escalade instead of the Navigator was because his parent company is helping the NFL network. If millions of fans did the same with the companies that are supporting the NFL Network, it could really hurt the NFL. Follow the money and fight it at the source of the money!

Dan Harcum - PA

I also share your pain. I've been a devoted pittsburgh fan my entire life...so much as i can not recall rooting for any other team. I recently spent a day flying to the virgin islands on a sunday and unforturnately missed there last lost....oh well i thought because as of 2 days ago i saw a commercial on the NFL network that the rams/steelers game would be on the NFL network. My entire family was with me and as you did....watched the entire pre-game on the "tease-channel" and when it was game time they aired a show called "small town football"......who in their right mind would want to watch football in towns they never even heard of....Where was the game? I cruised everychannel and could not find the game....all i could find was the score on another channel. least to say...." I am NOT happy at all with their network or their advertising ways". neither is my family. I say Stop all broadcasting of the NFL if your not going to show any of the games. I AM FURIOUS AND I WILL BOYCOTT ANYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH THE NFL NETWORK UNTIL I SEE AN ACUTUAL GAME ON THE CHANNEL. thanks for your website

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Carl The Truth Williams

Now I understand why time warner and com cast choose not to show the NFL network games, its not the money its to protect their viewers from the announcers. First we had cc and bg and now we get bg and ds. I am ready to cancel my cable so I dont accidently come across this ZZZ rated announcing team. The announcers of the first Longest Yard movie with Burt Reynolds are like Frank, Howard, and Dandy Don compared to this group.

John

Everyone should boycott watching NFL games broadcast on the NFL networks to show the NFL that NFL games should be played or view as a game and not business.
Please bring Monday night football to local channel.

George

I would like to know who is the moron who thought up this NFL network.

Mike

I noticed the statement that they (the nfl network) were not taking anything away from us; that we would not see the game anyway unless it was a regional game. I have watched every game the Carolina Panthers have ever played except early in their second season (when I was in a coma), and the knowledge that I will miss one because it is being held hostage in the battle of the big bucks pisses me off! I would be willing to pay to see that game and a few others, but at the same time, I have little to no interest in many of the other games. Yes, I'm a proud fan of the
Tar Heels and Panthers, in good times and bad.

TT

Ok, hang on--- ESPN gets paid almost
$3.50 per SUBSCRIBER from each cable company. NFLnetowkr is still trying to break in so they haven't yet struck a deal with the cable giants. i saw the NFL network at a local bar and thought it was cool but not for real games. Many people don't have cable or cant afford it. The NFl is pushing a lagre market away or missing the boat entirley. NFL network is competeing with ESPN by forcing their customers to pay and beg their cable companies to pay the fees. Football was always public until ABC bought ESPN. Look at Mon night football! I don't have more than basic cable, as do most people. Bye Bye football!

adam

I hate the stupid ass nfl network.Ive got it, but come game time its a black screen.(Pay For).