Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comcast vs. NFL Network--Can They Both Lose?

Comcast and NFL Network are mad at each other, and have been for quite some time, which is fine by me.  Here's the nitty gritty, via the AP:  "The sides disagree over Comcast's treatment of the NFL channel. Comcast moved it to a premium sports tier that has fewer viewers than the digital TV package where the NFL Network wanted to be."

Unmentioned by the AP, but mentioned by others is that there is some possible pay-back from Comcast for the NFL refusing to allow Comcast's shitty sports network, Versus, access to NFL broadcast rights.  Versus (and the Golf Network) is owned by Comcast, and is on the basic level package.

Now, I'm an Comcast subscriber (because I have so many choices on that front) and I happen to have plunked down the extra money for NFL Network, mainly because, to my mind it came "free" with the purchase of Fox Soccer Network.  So I'm kind of equally biased, and thus unbiased.

So here are some of my thoughts:

1.  The NFL Network should be on the free tier, because it is almost totally devoid of value.  Most folks don't have the NFL Network, and I certainly wouldn't, if it were not part of the package I purchased that had other channels that I really did want.  They broadcast a grand total of what?  4 games per year?  You know what they are doing during the vast number of hours in which there isn't football?  Showing  NFL films and old NFL games.  Which is occasionally awesome.  For example, I watched a chunk of Brett Favre's first appearance for the Green Bay Packers, before the commentators knew they wanted Brett's penis inside of them, in a non-gay, manly way.  It was fascinating.  But for the most part, we're talking about replays from years ago.  Who cares?  During the season, the NFL network is sports radio, with a statistical crawl that takes up the whole screen.  It's like your Fantasy Football website, but in no way centered around your team or needs.  Just guys talking, over a phone in a breezeway of some stadium, while your website tells you exactly what your individual players are doing. 

1b.  Fox Soccer Channel, when it comes to big soccer games, receives a royal asskicking from ESPN.  Champion's League on ESPN.  EUFA on Fox.  Every US qualifier is on ESPN.  If you really want to watch Slovakia vs. Belgium, Fox Soccer Channel is where it is at.  Step it up, FSC.

2.  Comcast is made up, at a molecular level, of dicks.  If you were slice a hunk of flesh off any of their Vice-Presidents, Lawyers, or what have you, and you stuck it on a slide, and threw it under a microscope, you would see that instead of mitochondria in their cells, there are just tiny dicks floating around the protoplasm, occasionally bumping up against the nucleus (that's when Ideas happen!).   Comcast is a bad company, and it is almost impossible to admit when they are in the right, even when they are.  And I'm not totally convinced that they are here.  They claim "the cost" to bring the NFL Network would be prohibitively high if they made it free for every Comcast subscriber.  But I get Homes and Garden TV, and I bet I didn't have the option to not have it.  Am I subsidizing all the asshole who actually watch HGTV?  Comcast seems to be implicitly saying "Yes, you are.  But those douchebag HGTV watchers are subsidizing your watching of The Soup (the one half hour all week you turn on E!)"

2b.  Cable in general, has a dick mentality.  Look at Time Warner, already seeing the writing on the wall about content delivered over the Internet, and looking into charging customers for their internet access based on Bandwidth.  Skirt buying HD Cable packages, and watch Lost online on your superfast connection?  Time Warner is trying to figure out how to charge you more for that.  Comcast is no better.  You think the ads on Hulu are a minor annoyance now.  Just wait.

2c.  Cable is terrified of an ala Carte style of Cable.  Imagine paying for just the channels you actually watch, instead of  "tiers".  It is well within the technological capacity (watch how quickly they can turn off your service if they consider you an "at-risk" account and you are late with your payment) to do so, but they don't offer ala carte service, because it would significantly impact their bottom line.  Though that's not the reason they give--they say they are providing a valuable service, by serving as an "Incubator" for stations that would not get watched if they were not part of a tier, that later become successful.  They point to Comedy Central and the Cartoon Network as examples.  I hate to think of a world without The Daily Show or The Venture Brothers.  But given the success of web based shows, it is hard to imagine a world in which quality content would not find a way out to the public.

3.  All of that said, does the NFL Network really need to exist?  Is it not, in a thunderously hamhanded metaphorical exercise, Crystal Pepsi?  Were people clamoring for extra out of market games featuring teams they don't care about?  The only time most people give 2 craps about the game the NFL Network is carrying is when it is their home team, and they find out it won't be carried on local TV.  Which it would have been, had the NFL Network not raised itself, cthonically, out of the NFL's dragon teeth.  The NFL saw a chance to create need, and as corporations will do, it went out of its way to create that need.  You live near your team, prior to the NFL Network, all you had to do was hope that the stadium was filled close enough to capacity for your team to be aired on the local TV.  If you lived far away from your favorite team, and you demand to see every game they play, you plunk down extra money on your Dish Network or your Cable and get those games.  The NFL saw some money on that, but saw a chance to keep all the money.

To sum up in a way I know I and my audience will understand--watch Ali Baba Bunny.  Hasan is Comcast.  Daffy Duck is the NFL.  Bugs Bunny is the FCC.  Watch, and discuss:

1 comment:

Josh - Minneapolis said...

FYI - FSC has the Champions League rights starting next year. They will partner with Fox Sports Net and FX to broadcast each and every game. In addition, they have Premier League and the ENTIRE Serie A schedule.