Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving...and the NFL broadcasts

I watched most of the Dolphins game, the second half of the Cowboys game, and the first half of the Chiefs game.

Interestingly, the losing team in each of the games scored exactly 10 points.

The interruption between the Dolphins and Cowboys games was, as one might expect, to eat.

I don't have the NFL Network, so I anticipated that I wouldn't be able to see any of the last game. But, I was over at a relative's house who does get it, so we watched part of the game. First, I have to say that the broadcast was "different" for this game. I can't put any specifics on it, but the quality wasn't the same as it is for the network broadcasts. Now that may be because it was the first game they did, and even with experienced people, it takes time to get the while thing together.

Second, I certainly won't see how it comes together. The NFL network is only carried by some cable companies, so not everyone has access to it. Mine does happen to carry it, but its only available on "digital plus" meaning that while I subscribe to something that costs me $40 / month, I would have to spend an additional $20 / month just to get this network (and a bunch of other stuff). Not gonna happen, even though I would like to have it. I can't justify it.

Third, there's this notion of the NFL owning its own content. Right now, the way the NFL broadcasting works is that the NFL owns the radio brodcasts. Each team hires the broadcasters, and negotiates with the station that will broadcast the games. It is broadcast locally on that station, and some affiliates in the broadcast area. But, otherwise, the broadcast is unavailable unless you have Sirius or subscribe to the NFL's Field Pass on their website. (back in the day, various networks would syndicate their broadcasts into other markets, and later you could listen to other market's broadcasts on the internet, for free; none of this is true anymore).

The TV deals are a little different. NBC and ESPN have the rights to one broadcast a week, each. NBC also has exclusive rights to hilights of other games until their game ends. CBS and FOX have the rights to the rest of the broadcasts. And all content here is a joint product of the NFL and that network. NBC broadcasts on free TV, ESPN on cable, so its already not available to some consumers. CBS and FOX broadcast over the air, but they have rules about how many games they can broadcast, and into which markets.

One of the two gets to air two games a week, while the other can air one. And, in markets in which there is a team (such as in Miami) and the team is at home, there can't be any competition on against the home team, so in effect, there are only two games on, and one is the local team. And there are all kinds of rules about switching games during the broadcast, which complicates this more.

If you want to see another game, you have to get the NFL Sunday ticket, which is only available on DirectTV, which, of course, not everyone has. And, oh by the way, you have to pay money for it, AND its the regular TV broadcast along with all the commercials.

The NFL network airing games makes this more vexing. Its another game that's not available to most consumers.

So, what gives? The NFL would clearly like to own all of its own content, and to not even have the networks doing broadcasts. They already control who can see their product. Oh, and by the way, there is a specific reason that you don't see video on this or any fan website. Yup, the NFL owns it and won't license it for publication.

But, this leaves some potential issues. For example, having DirectTV as the outlet for all broadcasts rankles some, and there was a (mostly grandstanding) investigation into whether this reasoable to consumers.

And then there's the anti-trust exemption the NFL currently enjoys. One of the details is that the broadcasts must be made freely available. Right now, with the network TV deals, it is. With a shift to more NFL owned broadcasts that are only available to some cable customers, not so much.

The NFL must tread lightly, and I believe will move toward having a national broadcast or two each week, having the local team broadcast, and otherwise everything will be theirs, and available on PPV. Heck, we're almost already there.

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