NFL Network

I love professional football; there’s no question about it. I’m a Green Bay Packers fan, win or lose (although I prefer the wins). The only reason I get out of bed on Sundays is to watch them play. And if the Packers don’t play on Sunday, I watch other teams. If I’m not watching, I’m out throwing the football. I just don’t get enough football, especially this time of year.

I’ve always enjoyed watching the National Football League (NFL) on television. I really enjoy the spirit that you see in both the players and the fans. And over the years, the NFL has been gracious enough to allow viewers to watch many of these games on network television.

The NFL has shown games on the cable network ESPN on Thursday nights over the past few years. But starting with this season, the NFL decided to move its popular Monday Night Football on ESPN, a cable sports channel, from ABC, a national network channel. Simply put, only those with cable or satellite subscriptions can watch these games.

But the NFL isn’t stopping there. It is also taking another direction by airing certain games only on its NFL Network. NFL Network, a station that has been around for only a few years and doesn’t provide much information beyond statistics and game highlights. Now the NFL is expanding the channel to include live games.

So that isn’t so bad, until you read about why many cable companies refuse to carry it. NFL Network is asking for a hefty price from cable providers to carry it. The article reports that each subscriber would need to pay a 70-cent hike. It’s bad enough that NFL Sunday Ticket is already only available to DirecTV subscribers, and that NFL on Sirius is available only to Sirius satellite radio subscribers. But now it’s proposing to block out additional fans by making certain games available only on a channel that’s available in a limited number of markets.

I remember that when I first subscribed to digital cable three years ago, I had the NFL Network. But it only offered some stats and highlights from games that I already watched, so I never watched it. Then one day, I realized that the channel had completely disappeared. Now it is in negotiations with my cable provider, who will not acquiesce to subscribing to it at such a high cost. This simply would be too much for all subscribers, and the cost would be spread to all of the subscribers, including those that don’t watch football.

I think it’s unfair for the NFL to push its network on those of us that cannot afford it. It already has a strong licensing program that requires anything with either an NFL or an NFL team logo approval (including team license plates). It already airs games at odd hours of the week (Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights). It has expanded the number of its teams over the past two decades, especially after absorbing the American Football League in 1970. Now it wants to dictate what cable services we need to purchase in order to watch the games.

I don’t think it is fair for non-sports fans to pay considerably more for their cable service, especially when they must now pay around 70-cents each for a station that they won’t watch. And it feels like the NFL is alienating us fans that either cannot afford to pay more for our cable service or cannot afford cable service to begin with. It’s already turning football into a game that caters to the wealthy, and it’s going to lose a number of its core fans if it continues on this trend. Also, this borders on the line of infringing the country’s antitrust laws.

And with a terrible record so far this season, I cannot understand how the Packers can justify telling its fans to push for their cable services to pick up the NFL Network. I will for once give the cable companies credit for listening to its subscribers on this one and not giving in to the pressures of the NFL. According to President Bob Harlan, he hasn’t heard what the fans think about this issue. I plan on writing to the Packers, though, and letting them know that I oppose being forced to buy into the NFL Network at such an unreasonable cost.

The Capital Times: Charter, NFL need late rally

MSNBC: NFL games on NFL Network get attention from Congress

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