The NFL recently announced that one of its service providers, Dish Network, elected, rather than to continue to pay increased rates for carriage, to discontinue carrying the league’s 24/7 channels, NFL Network and NFL Red Zone.
While Dish Network represents a large swatch of consumers, of course, that still leaves residents nationwide with plenty of alternatives if among their highest priorities in their television package consists of constant access to the league’s television content, which they dutifully point out.
It is interesting to note that among the alternatives is Xfinity, or Comcast, who have been in a regional dispute with the Yankees over increased television rates, and they have dropped the baseball franchise’s YES Network from their list of carried channels. It is easy for either party to frame the opposite side as the villain, and I can assure you that both sides have worked extensively at doing just that.
But this for me brings p a broader point about the manner in which the league allows its content—specifically, its actual games—across the nation. The fact that it remains the case that the only way for a US resident to have access to all live games is to subscribe to DirecTV seems almost comical, and hardly the most profitable alternative for the league.
While no doubt the income provided by allowing DirecTV to have the exclusive rights to the live games across regional markets is substantial, one would think that there are other alternatives that would be even more profitable, because it rests largely on a convergence of two demographics.
Those demographics, specifically, are significant fans of the game, and people who are willing to install a satellite, and there is certainly no small minority of people who would rather not have to get their television through a satellite on their roof.
In the cases of many, this would require switching from one service provider in a different venue, such as a cable provider, to a satellite provider in DirecTV, simply to have the opportunity to watch the NFL games, live, that they would like.
For a league with as wide a diaspora of fans as the NFL—a team such as the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular has a wide blanket of fans all across the country, and around the world—it seems counterintuitive not to take advantage of providing a more versatile option for out-of-market fans to have live access to their team’s games.
Of course, the NFL has their Game Pass online system, which allows paid users to rewatch any game of any NFL season dating back several years at any time—except live—but the hunger for a live game alternative is no doubt a strong one.
DirecTV has in recent years attempted a limited roll-out of a no-dish, online-only alternative Sunday Ticket, but that has yet to see great expansion to most markets, and is still only at best a partial solution. The NFL should have every motivation of providing as many users as possible a desirable option to pay for their services, and on that end, they are still lagging behind.