NFL Network Continues To Cause Drama, Pain, Anger

Cable consumers hate the NFL network. Not because its bad, but because the cable companies and the NFL are warring over it and passing the pain on to consumers.

Here’s the problem: The NFL network is wildly expensive for Comcast and other cable companies and, subsequently, the cable companies want to pass the charges on to only those consumers who want to pay extra for a 24/7/365 channel about professional football, rather than raise rates across the board. The NFL wants the cable companies to make the channel available to all of their customers.

It wouldn’t be such a big issue, except the NFL network is now showing actual games and well, consumers are touchy about paying for live sporting events that they used to be able to watch for free. An even larger amount of customers are touchy about their cable rates going up because of a specialty channel that they don’t want to watch.

Comcast and a few other cable providers have moved the NFL network up to a premium sports tier and are charging extra—against the will of the NFL, but in accordance with a ruling from a circuit court judge. The NFL is not happy. From NFL.com:

Some companies try to exploit fans’ passion for NFL football to drive revenues for their pay-extra sports packages. This is why we do our best to have NFL Network distributed broadly and affordably to all TV viewers, so our fans will not have to pay unreasonable costs to view our programming. These core NFL Network principles – broad distribution without extra costs – are what we believe Comcast agreed to, and what we are attempting to protect in our legal dispute with Comcast.

Pay-extra sports packages like, say, NFL Sunday Ticket? Exclusively on DirecTV? Ahem. What was Comcast’s response? From the San Jose Mercury News:

Andrew Johnson, Comcast’s senior vice president of communications, said the company bore the increased cost of last year’s games “under protest” while the lawsuit played out. He says the constant rate increases for cable service have nothing to do with this fight.

“You’ll be assured that NFL fans who pay for it will see it, and non-fans won’t have to pay for it,” he said.

Did they take away your NFL Network? [NFL.com]
Comcast shifts NFL Network [San Jose Mercury News]

Comments

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  1. Hanke says:

    Continues to cause…since this was posted almost a year ago.

  2. enm4r says:

    NFL Network can die it a firely hell…..along with RCN. I was excited last fall when I talked my was enjoying my upgraded tier that included NFL Network. Only to find on the first Thursday game that instead of the game, I was met by some random show with giant scrolling text “IF YOU ARE SEEING THIS TEXT, YOU ARE NOT A FULL NFL NETWORK SUBSCRIBER. PLEASE CONTACT CABLE COMPANY…” blah blah. If they can’t come to an agreement, they shouldn’t be offering it at all. I don’t want a gimped version, and RCN was in the wrong for not clarifying that to begin with.

  3. Starfury says:

    I pay enough for the overall crappy channel lineup I get from Comcast. I don’t want to pay extra to have a 24/7 football channel; I don’t watch during the regular season on the broadcast stations. Let the people that are sports fans pay extra.

    I’m annoyed that I’m paying to have 5 shopping channels and 5+ foreign language channels that I don’t watch. ATT has a very good deal on Dish and DSL; the overall price is $35/mo less than I’m paying now with more channels + music. Time to move on from Comcast I think.

  4. Murph1908 says:

    I was originally mad at Comcast for moving the channel to an additional package. But I am, for the first time ever, on Comcast’s side here. It makes sense, that if they have to pay the NFL a truck of money to carry the channel, that they need to pass on the cost.

    Now I am mad at the NFL, for essentially extorting the fans and pushing their product down our throats by introducing ‘Thursday Night Football’ on the NFL network. It all stinks like Sony extorting their PS fan base to drive their Blu-Ray product.

    At least with the current setup, I can choose to not succumb to the extortion and not upgrade my cable.

    With DVRs and the sheer number of channels that are now available, I think the current TV revenue model is not long for this world. We’ll be paying per episode/event before too long. Maybe then we’ll get better quality shows, and actors won’t be paid such outrageous money ($1 mil per episode? C’mon.)

  5. jeffeb3 says:

    I just want to watch NHL games in HDTV. To get that, I have to buy digital cable, their cable box, and a silver package or some crap totaling ~$90/month. I would be pissed if that got even higher because of football. I just need a service where I can buy live sporting events without all this other crap.

  6. dbeahn says:

    All professional sports are becoming more and more about all the wrong and bad things.

    Sportsmanship? Gone. Pride in your team? Only at the most outrageous prices in history (ticket prices, T-shirts that cost $10 more just to have the team name printed on them, etc etc).

    Want to WATCH your team? Ya pretty much have to have a pay package. Go on – squeeze your fan base for every last penny you can get. Ask the RIAA and MPAA how that’s working out for them.

  7. Shadowman615 says:

    @STARFURY: The biggest problem I have is that up to a few months ago I was getting the NFL network as part of my current service, and now I’m not. My rates certainly didn’t go down — I’m just getting less channels. OK, so you don’t watch the NFL channel, but I’m sure you’d object if they decided to suddenly move another channel you did watch to a premium lineup, right?

    My utopian cable service would be one that offered 30- or 50- or 200- (or whatever number) channel packages where I could individually pick whichever channels I wanted.

  8. Adam291 says:

    On Verizon FiOS, we get NFL Network with the standard package. I never really understood how Verizon was able to offer just about every channel, while cable and satellite companies have two or three tiers of programming. Not only that, we get more channels for less money than a standard cable or satellite package.

  9. joopiter says:

    I’m in the group that does not want to pay increased rates for a sports channel I will never, ever watch. Jesus…does that mean I’m actually defending Comcast?!?

    Overall, I have to say, I’m glad I’m not a sports fan. It seems to me that sports fans are getting screwed every which way for every sport imaginable.

  10. CreativeLinks says:

    Look, I am a huge Football Fan (I have DirectTV Sunday Ticket)–and watch about 6 to 7 games each weekend.

    Seriously.

    I do not watch the NFL network, even though I have it. Between Yahoo Sports and ESPN, the NFL network is slow to react, and to be honest, doesn’t have any interesting programming.

    So the idea of paying “more” for it is simply ridiculous.

  11. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @dbeahn: “Go on – squeeze your fan base for every last penny you can get. Ask the RIAA and MPAA how that’s working out for them.”
    As a New England transplant, I get to see a handful of games each year that I really care about. And then only when it’s free on TV. I might go to a sports bar to enjoy a game, but never do I send one cent to the NFL. What they are doing with the NFL network is insane. They have so much goodwill with their fans (and the country in general), but I have more than a suspicion that people may have had enough.

  12. Brian Gee says:

    @Adam291: I’d have to guess that since FIOS is new, and only in certain areas, and trying to grow, that Verizon is doing everything in their power to make FIOS *seem* way better than cable, sat, etc.

    I have to say I’m glad that I don’t pay for the NFL channel, as I’d never watch it. Comcast is doing right by the majority of their subscribers. If you have issue with the NFL Network disappearing from your lineup, write to the NFL Network and explain that you are unhappy with their extortionary tactics.

    Honestly I wouldn’t mind if Comcast added the NFL Network to the basic packages by removing an MTV, ESPN, E!, Bravo, or one of the home shopping networks. It would be a nice move for diversity. Sure I’d never watch it, but at least there would be more variety as I flip through channels. I already pay for dozens of channels I don’t watch; I don’t need more.

  13. LTS! says:

    What I think is lost on everyone is exactly how much the NFL is charging networks to carry its channel. I’ve had a bit of disdain for the NFL ever since the Sunday Ticket and the exclusivity of it with DirecTV which only serves to screw customers. The NFL Network is merely another path to exploit the fan base. By requiring that it’s carried on the regular tier and demanding something like $.90/subscriber/month you can see why cable companies would balk at such items.

    Certainly there’s something for the two sides of the argument that represent the cable companies and the NFL, however the consumer is left in the cold.

    As far as I am concerned, the NFL can rot. They are a bunch of thugs making millions of dollars per year because people who should not be budgeting NFL tickets into their lives are ignorantly supporting them just to see people hit each other. I’m not anti-football by any measure, but professional sports are way out of line.

  14. no.no.notorious says:

    if something good happens in sports (by good, i mean abnormally violent) it will be on youtube seconds after it happens

    i mean, why else do you watch sports? to see who wins? pish-posh

  15. SaveMeJeebus says:

    I don’t understand why customers can’t have a true voice and have a-la-carte programming. I’m guessing it would bankrupt crappy, bundle happy cable companies and rerun filled networks.

  16. We have the NFL network as part of our dish network package. We’ve watched it twice for out of market games. We’re originally from Chicago and we’re used to seeing the Bears play on local channels but when we moved to Indiana we had a few times we couldn’t see the games without the channel.

    Last night NFL network aired the game at midnight! That sucked but we were able to set the dvr to get it and watch it Sunday.

  17. @solareclipse2:

    Well…yeah…midnight is early sunday morning and watched it later sunday morning.

  18. InThrees says:

    It is patently ridiculous for the NFL to expect Comcast to charge people who don’t even like football for the dubious privilege of having this specialty niche channel available.

    The NFL should either pay for the availability with their own advertising, or agree that they are a premium channel and suck it up.

    You can’t have it both ways. ‘Wide availability’ does not mean ‘unavoidable tax on uninterested viewers’ or ‘exorbitant fee to cable providers’. It means ‘we pay for this with advertising so you can choose to watch or not watch at your discretion.’

  19. Bryan Price says:

    I live in an NFL town. They have resorted to removing/covering up seats to try and keep the games from being blacked out. The funny hing is, my home town doesn’t have NFL, but when the university plays there, there is no threat of a blackout. Even with a stadium that seats over 100,000. Too many years of sell-outs to even think that would happen. And while there does seem to be plenty of team cheer in both places, here in the NFL it’s a little more conspicuous with the teal Jaguars running around. Red and silver cars just aren’t that different.

  20. AskCars says:

    This is so weird because I just ordered the Sports package from Comcast on Saturday after much internal debate on what to do between getting DirectTV or sticking with Comcast.

    1st: If you’re a long time Comcast subscriber BITCH about it to the customer service people. My Father in law had to pay the new fee but got $20 off a MONTH for 6 months on his Internet. I’m currently on a promotion but the guy at Comcast said call back in a few months after it runs out and I’ll be able to get as discount.

    2nd: I am a religious NFL Network guy. I love Total Access and watch it every night. They also added the HD channel and watching preseason games in HD is almost worth the time.

    I’m pissed that I’m paying $7 MORE a month now don’t get me wrong, but I wish I could pay all a la carte as well.

    And remember folks NFL Network isn’t the one who set the precedent for this, that would be ESPN. You’re all paying $5 a month out of your bill (or so) just for ESPN.

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    A la carte’s the only fair alternative.

    NFL, sure. But add the televangilist crap as well. And kid’s programming. And the whole ESPN/sports tier. And the Home stuff.

    Anything else is bogglingly anti-consumer.

    PS: HD football fans, try over-the-air signals, since it’s often higher-rez than the cable/sat signal and odds are good that – for local games – it’s available for free.

  22. Illusio26 says:

    @ BY INTHREES “It is patently ridiculous for the NFL to expect Comcast to charge people who don’t even like football for the dubious privilege of having this specialty niche channel available.”

    Are you kidding me? Thats what comcast does! When I had them, I never once watched HGTV, Lifetime, Speedvision, HSN or a variety of other niche channels. Why should my bill be paying for those niche channels but not for the NFL network.

    The only real way to make it fair is to let people pay for the channels they want, but comcast would never do that, they would loose tons of money. I’m guessing the majority of people only watch 10-20 channels at most.

    A year ago I got fed up with comcast constantly raising my rates and switched to Dish Network. My bill is half as much now and I’m grateful to not have to deal with comcast.

  23. nffcnnr says:

    i have time-warner cable, so i don’t have the NFL network. Thus, i will not be able to see 8 games this season from the comfort of my own home. i’d gladly pay up to $5 per month from sept – jan for the NFL network. i wouldn’t mind switching to DirectTV, except my internet is thru time-w, and it is fantastic. What to do? And what’s keeping cable companies from an a-la-carte set up? -bummed out in big D

  24. doormat says:

    @Starfury:

    Aactually, those five home shopping networks actually reduce your cable bill. Companies like QVC and HSN pay cable companies to carry their channel, as opposed to the other way around where cable pays to carry ESPN, NFL Network, etc.

    And I agree with Comcast on this one. They should segregate cable TV into groups (or go a la carte) that are easy to subscribe to. I dont want MTV or E! or any of that garbage. But I do want Discovery, etc. That cant happen until everything is 100% digital though.

    What I would really like is Congress to go and kick the NFL’s ass for turning the entire sport away from free OTA networks to pay-for stations (ESPN, NFL Network, etc). Congress has an anti-trust exemption that it can dangle over the heads of the NFL execs. Thats why the NFL network is only doing pre-season games. You start to take away football games from the people and force them to pay extra for them, I can bet they’ll complain to their congressman.

  25. The_Vector says:

    The Big Ten Network is trying the same tricks. They want to be on basic cable and charge the cable companies one of the highest rates of any channel. The companies are insisting it go on a digital/sports tier. Here in Columbus, OH, OSU football is a HUGE deal. BTN has already scheduled 3 OSU games that will, as of now, not be seen on cable. Every few months, some Big Ten executives roll into town and tell the local press how wonderful the Big Ten Network will be. I hope the cable companies stand firm on this one.

  26. MostNutsEver says:

    I was really pissed off about this a couple of months back when Comcast stopped carrying NFL Network on the basic tier. But then I called them to find out how much it was to add this sports tier, and its only 5 bucks a month. 5 bucks isn’t worthy of pain, anger or drama to me, even if it does suck that we have to pay extra for what we were already getting.

  27. acambras says:

    @nffcnnr:

    If the cable companies went a la carte, who would subsidize all those religious and home shopping channels?

  28. millcitymodern says:

    I would be on Comcast’s side if they weren’t so bloody expensive to begin with. for the first time in my life I wish I lived in a treeless neighborhood just so I could have my Dish Network back. I feel dirty every month I pay Comcast’s obnoxiously high bill.

  29. AskCars says:

    REMEMBER the NFL Network is airing Thursday and Saturday night games. These are NEW! There has never been this much NFL broadcasting nationally ever. So they’re not taking away games from local fans. They’re giving NFL freaks more nationally broadcast games. Your local team will still be broadcast locally.

    If you’re going to argue, argue over the right stuff.

    I still say it should be a la carte though.

  30. Echodork says:

    If the NFL really wants everyone to see it, they’ll make it affordable. Until then, I have no desire to pay a premium rate for a sports channel I’ll never watch.

  31. cde says:

    I watch four channels, five if I want to see Scrubs/House. Discovery, Sci-fi, Cartoon Network, SpikeTV and USA. None of those would end up in the same package, with the exception of spike and sci-fi. Viva la Al-A-Carte!

  32. The Bigger Unit says:

    Pfft, whatever. At least you dicks have the option of paying 5 whole dollars to watch a ton of football. I shelled out an extra $15/month for the privilege of watching one goddamned NHL game on “VS” every week.

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Here’s the deal:
    1>>
    The NFL network costs the cable companies $1 per sub per month. So I agree with Comcast charging me for it. But charge me the $1 and give me the NFL network (in HD, thanks, instead of sometimes its HD and sometimes its not) and not charge me $5 for these other regional ‘sports’ channels. Two guys talking for hours about the Marlins or catching marlins is NOT what I consider sports, and certainly not worth another $4 a month.
    2>>
    The NFL network has NO ROOM WHATSOEVER to bitch at cable companies. When the NFL TV package was renegotiated a couple years ago, the ‘exclusivity’ between DirecTv and the NFL for Sunday Ticket (you can pay for and watch all of the out-of-market NFL games each week) was (after further review) RENEWED. So the shitloads of money the NFL could have made from CABLE subscribers is gone.
    So there you have it…just like Consumerists the NFL wants to have it both ways.

  34. BSitko says:

    I agree with several posts on here but I fear that it will take some time for the process to change. I don’t need or want 20 HBO and Showtimes. I want 1. I don’t want C-SPAN, or the Spanish channels. Why do I have to upgrade to the SILVER package in order to get the Food Network? Over spending on trash channels. Why do you think there are 300 channels and yet you can never find something to watch? Forcing the public to pick the channels they want to watch cuts down on the channels that no one watches. It would give us better programming AND hopefully (in a utopian world) cut down on our cable costs.

  35. This is why I like my DishNetwork. NFL Network, channel 154, No Questions asked.

  36. suckonthat says:

    @David Thomas:

    And remember folks NFL Network isn’t the one who set the precedent for this, that would be ESPN. You’re all paying $5 a month out of your bill (or so) just for ESPN.

    Actually, it is more like $10 a month. I go to a university that does not carry ESPN on its cable. For years all the students bitched, until they sent a survey to everyone asking if we wanted to pay an extra $10 a month per person. Needless to say, the overwhelming majority of the campus voted that ESPN was not worth more than $100 a year. Oh and the price to add Comedy Central? $.50 more a month and it came with other miscellaneous channels.

    I’m as big of a football fan as anyone else, but I also don’t like being extorted.

  37. kingoman says:

    I can’t stand the idea of defending any cable company, but the NFL is as greedy as the RIAA. They sell their service to cable companies who can market it and charge for it ANY WAY THEY PLEASE. If you want everybody to have it, charge less for it, morons. You can saturate the market *or* you can charge a premium price. Any marketing freshman can tell you, you can’t do both.

    The NFL doesn’t seem to understand how broadcast TV and “regular viewers” (i.e. poor folk) *made* them a valuable property and if they alienate those fans, their value will vanish just as fast. If I get used to missing games that are on NFL, I’ll be a lot more likely to be OK missing games I could watch. I’ll get out of the habit of watching football. I’ll get a life. I’ll discover I was wasting my time. They really don’t want that, but that’s where they’re headed.

  38. killavanilla says:

    Not buying it – all the anger here should be directed at Comcast, not NFL network.
    I don’t have a problem paying an extra buck a month for NFL network, but Comcast isn’t offering that. In order to get the NFL network, I have to pay $7.99 a month for a sports/entertainment package that includes OLN (don’t care, never watch it), Fox Movie Channel (never had it, never wanted it), BET Jazz (Hate BET, love jazz, never watched it before, never will watch it – jazz doesn’t see in color, baby) amongst other worthless examples.
    So if the NFL network costs so much, why not offer it for a buck a month? I’d even pay two bucks a month. But $7.99? For the only channel I would watch in that group?
    That’s why Comcast is dirty and I hate them.
    On top of all of that, they didn’t send me so much as an email to let me know. One day, I tuned in and NFL net wasn’t working. When I called, the drone on the phone told me that they notified me via a message on my cable box. I explained to her that no one checks those messages because 99% of the time, they are ads for additional services, pay per view events, and other wastes of valuable TV time. They couldn’t include a note in my bill?
    Comcast is greedy. I’ve seen my rates go up and am now paying more per month than ever before.
    If Comcast ever reduces their rates, it’ll be a signal that Satan just purchased his first parka.

  39. TMurphy says:

    Okay, first Consumerist reader to get filthy rich, please start an honest cable company to put Comcast out of business. Then you can go on to cell phone, internet, airline markets as you please.

    I second, erm… 182nd… the motion for ala carte.

  40. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @TMurphy: “first Consumerist reader to get filthy rich, please start an honest cable company to put Comcast out of business” Unfortunately cable companies are monopolies and you wouldn’t be able to do it.

  41. yoyomother says:

    Here’s what I did to combat the whole cable company thing. I moved to another country. Extreme, yes, I know. But now I don’t watch TV because I don’t understand what they’re saying. And anything I want to watch is on the internet.

  42. Mr. Gunn says:

    Not only that, but why would you pay extra for a channel so aggressively covered with advertisements?

    They showed maybe 5 minutes of gameplay in the entire first half.

    They cut away from plays before the whistle was even blown, and back to them when the play was already in motion, and they did this not occasionally, but EVERY SINGLE PLAY. The only time I saw two whole plays back to back the entire game was immediately after halftime, when the Saints scored(Go Saints!). We left after the third quarter because we were so disgusted with it.

    You gotta be smokin’ crack if you think I’ll pay extra to have the same 4 or 5 ads aggressively shoved in my face over and over when I’m trying to watch some football.