Thursday, November 6, 2008

Changing Face of Sports On TV

The NFL Network is back again, starting tonight with more football on TV, and less people watching. The trend continues of watching games get moved to higher priced channels.

Remember when tickets to pro games were priced at family friendly rates. Remember when local pro football games were only available on TV when the stadium was sold out; and when it wasn't, the local broadcaster or bank chipped in to buy the seats so the game could be shown on free TV. Remember when TNT and ESPN each got 8 games to air and football fans had to buy basic cable to watch more games. Baseball did it too with regional networks like Prism, Empire, then YES and SNY and others. TBS once the home of Braves games moved them to another network, Sports South to further divide the pot and increase the revenue. Our history is to keep moving our sports off free TV to tiers and now it seems to subscription. Back to football, remember when Direct TV sold a package to every out of market football game to the rabid football fan, causing them to drop their cable subscription to buy further up into a satellite subscription. And the NFL, hoping to further move fans to pay more for access, has built a set of games that only some cable operators are making available for purchase. While the NFL fights to be paid a license fee to make this channel available year round on basic, despite the fact that pro football games are only on for a couple of months. "'I’m disappointed people aren’t seeing the product,' Steve Bornstein, the president of the network, said Wednesday by telephone. 'That’s my frustration. We’re putting out a good product. It’s a product that people seem to be happy with. My viewership is up even though I have less subscribers than I did last year.'”

And what is the next step for the NFL. As the MLB has proved, create a subscription website that offers a mosaic of all the games to choose from. Buy one game a la carte or buy the subscription. TV makers are pushing internet into the TV set. Disney and others have pushed films into Tivo boxes. What is next for the NFL, the same thing. Bypass the cable operator and push subscription over the web and through other "connected" boxes. For those that want to watch their out of market games, it seems the logical next step.