David and Goliath

       It’s a fact of life, everyone likes to see a bully get his comeuppance. Even if the bully in question never put you in his sights, it’s fun to watch someone or something who used to push others around take a little in return. 
       So this Thursday night it will be particularly enjoyable to not get to watch the Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys football game on the NFL Network. 
       Now, as a football fan I’d like to watch the game. It’s one of the few games this entire wretched season that has some drama attached to it, and a real chance at superior competition. 
       But unfortunately, the game will only be broadcast to about 35 million homes in America, mostly to satellite subscribers and customers of small local cable companies. The big cable companies, such as Time Warner and Comcast, refuse to carry the channel without the right to charge customers extra for it, due almost exclusively to the league’s ridiculous assumption that the channel is worth between $.70 and $.90 cents per subscriber. 
       In other words, the NFL is demanding that these cable companies pay the league $.70 to $.90 per subscriber in exchange for the right to add the channel to the companies’ lineups. 
       Contrast this price with the $.46 cents charged by CNN or $.51 charged by the USA Network. Granted, when compared to the $3.26 ESPN gets per subscriber, $.70 seems like a steal. But let’s look at this more closely. 
       ESPN broadcasts a plethora of sports programs throughout the year. In fact, as much as I personally loathe ESPN, the fact is the network is the preeminent all-sports television franchise in America. Add to that the fact that ESPN has been around for close to 30 years and its understandable why the network demands and receives such an exorbitant per-subscriber fee. 
       The NFL Network has been around a whopping four years. In fact, last year was the first time the network even put live games on the channel, and having watched a couple I can tell you the league has a lot to learn about how to make a football broadcast interesting. 
       But we’re getting away from the obvious. Outside of the football season, the network is about as entertaining as recreational dentistry. 
       The NFL, the biggest, most successful pro sports league in this country, might finally have reached a tipping point. Ticket costs are through the roof at a time when a lot of people are finding it harder to make ends meet thanks in large part to the rising price of gas and food. And that’s not even including the waves of people across the country literally losing their homes. 
       The large cable companies have the clout and the financial resources to fight off the league’s increasingly pathetic attempts to convince people they need this channel. People don’t need this channel, and it seems to me the NFL knows this. More importantly, the NFL knows that big cable doesn’t need its network, the network needs the cable companies. 
       Football is the most popular sport in this country almost exclusively because it is the easiest sport to bet on, by far. The sport certainly doesn’t preoccupy the minds of sports fans to such an extent that the fans think about the league on a daily or even weekly basis during the off-season. 
       The league will find this out come February, when its network goes back to broadcasting games that occurred two decades ago and roundtable discussions on the greatest team color schemes of all time.
       That’s why the big cable companies won’t bend to pressure. Because they know the network is garbage 99.9% of the time.  

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