NFL Network has issues

For more than three years, NFL Network executives have hurled insults and accusations at big cable, and now have filed an FCC complaint toward Comcast. Network executives and NFL owners want the network to join cable’s expanded basic tiers to collect more revenue and command even more exposure for the nation’s most popular sport.

Cable companies long have contended the NFL Network demands too much money (about 80 cents a customer according to some reports) for eight live NFL games and a handful of other live football games. Cable companies, such as Comcast or even Iowa’s main provider Mediacom, have requested to put the NFL Network on sports tiers where they can recoup the costs and only interested sports fans have to pay for it.

The NFL Network argues the NFL is the nation’s most popular sport and some cable companies (such as Comcast) own sports networks and give them preferential treatment over more relevent start-up sports networks. The NFL Network preaches that most cable systems (heck, probably all) have plenty of cable networks that garner fewer ratings than would the NFL Network.

Each side makes a good argument. The NFL is, by far, the most popular sport in America. Check its annual ratings for live games against any other sport or even American Idol, and it comes out way ahead. But cable companies have a point, too. The network doesn’t offer much beyond eight live games, which used to appear on Saturday afternoons free on over-the-air networks in late December prior to 2006. It’s a lot to ask people who care very little for football to pay more for a channel they won’t watch, especially with gas and food costs rising almost daily. 

I think a general solution for both arguments exist. One, place the network on a digital cable tier that costs a bit more money for interested — but not all — consumers. Two, every live game would move up to an available cable channel (such as Mediacom Connections) for all customers. Three, allow the NFL Network to show some of its programming on an available cable channel at select times.

It’s not perfect, but neither is the NFL Network. Until it stops repeating its daily one-hour access show up to 12 hours a day and reshowing its other coverage two or three times a day, it’s hard to justify this channel over any other with more live or varied programming. It also would help if it updated its online schedule once the dates ran out.


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