NFL Sunday Ticket is like amazing delicious super crack. From the ability to watch whatever game your fickle heart desires, to the hypnotic decadence of “The Red Zone Channel,” NFL Sunday Ticket is well, radical.
But you can only get it on DirecTV. So it sucks. And it makes the NFL into a bunch of hypocrites when they whine that Comcast and Time Warner are relegating its “NFL Network” to a sports tier. And they whine an awful lot.
The doublespeak here is rich. The NFL restricts its magnificent Sunday Ticket product, which enables viewers to choose for themselves which game to watch, to the lucky few who get the satellite service DirecTV. Millions of homes cannot receive DirecTV for technical reasons or can pull in the signal only after expensive special installations. Frank Hawkins, the NFL’s chief negotiator for television contracts, told me that when he lived in Virginia, his home could not receive DirecTV until he had a tall metal pole installed in his backyard. Yet although the NFL won’t let anyone in the U.S. except DirecTV subscribers watch Sunday Ticket, the league is furious that Time-Warner and Cablevision won’t buy the NFL Network and Comcast will buy the NFL Network for its premium sports tier only. The NFL wants NFLN on every basic cable system, which was the path to success for ESPN and CNN. A war of words has broken out, in which the NFL is denouncing the cable carriers in consumer-rights language while asking that Congress intervene to force the NFL Network onto basic cable. The cable carriers are firing back, accusing the NFL of all manner of perfidy. Meanwhile, 35 million households already get the NFL Network, while only 1.6 million get Sunday Ticket — and the consumer’s barriers to Sunday Ticket are much higher than the barriers to the NFL Network.
The article goes on to explain the sordid history of the DirecTV Sunday Ticket monopoly. Interesting stuff. Monopolies are bad.