Acronym Update 12/08/07

Today’s Topic:  NFL Network

Dear Readers,

Major League Baseball will always be the #1 sport in my heart, but even I realize that the National Football League (NFL) is now the undisputed national pastime.

These days, every sports related conversation centers around pro football. Super Bowl parties are some of the most anticipated events of the year and millions (possibly billions) are wagered on NFL games each year.

However, I’ve received several complains from sports fans who are enraged about not being able to see 8 prime time games this season.   The contests in question can only be viewed on the NFL Network.

The NFL Network is a television channel created by the National Football League in 2004. As if there wasn’t enough football coverage on ESPN, etc., the league saw a long term revenue opportunity in offering NFL-centered programming and several late season Thursday and Saturday evening games that they could choose at-large from the schedule. The new network would also showcase material from the highly regarded NFL Films archives.

The NFL stepped on a lot of toes on the way to establishing their network. At first the league had all but signed an agreement with Comcast to develop and produce their new concept. In fact, Comcast pledged over $400 million to the league for the rights to carry the 8 games. Without publicly stating how much they were putting into the project, the National Football League decided on a “go it alone” approach.  While I don’t support government intervention as some are suggesting, the rollout of the NFL Network has been a public relations disaster for the league.

For the 2006 season, 8 games were televised on the NFL Network.  Some fans realized that the the network was a premium channel, not carried on standard (analog) cable, and found an appropriate solution.  I think the vast majority of the viewing public felt really left out in the dark (ha, ha) on this issue, but a lot of media attention has been given to this topic recently so now many of you know what has to be done if you want to view the NFL Network.

However, if you still want to see the 4 remaining NFL Network games (over the next 2 weeks) and don’t know if you have what it takes to “get in the game,” let me review your possibilities:

1) Subscribe to DirecTV or Dish Network.  NFL Network is included on all programming packages other than the “family tier.”

2) Cable customers need to rent a digital cable box and subscribe to the appropriate programming package.   For example, Comcast customers need to request the Sports Pack.  Cost:  $7.95 per month + plus box rental (if applicable).  The NFL Network is not offered in all cable markets or by all cable providers; please ask before making changes to your subscription.  Note:  most cable providers allow you to add / remove digital packages without contractual obligations.   Theoretically, if you simply wanted to add the NFL Network for a month or two, cancel it, and then add it again next August — that should not be a problem.

3) The NFL Network is also carried on AT&T’s U-Verse TV service and Verizon’s FiOS offering.

Enjoy your Week 14 games.