Hey NFL, ditch cable and develop your own box already


So I finally buckled and added NFL Network to my cable package because I had, had, had to see the game last night. I realized two things. First, the Dallas Cowboys can pretty much score at will. They’re fast becoming the New York Yankees of football. I don’t care for Tony Romo’s boyish charm or his ability to see everything in 360 degrees. Secondly, I realized that the only real reason I subscribe to Comcast cable is for watching football games. And it’s really only for football games on ESPN or NFL Network since I can get all the other games over the air. But football, in general, is the only thing I watch on TV that isn’t previously recorded or time shifted in some way. I could download almost anything else I regularly watch over the Internet somehow.

I hopped on Comcast’s website last night about five minutes before the game started and used their supposedly-time-and-money-saving live chat feature. I waited for about ten minutes before I was finally connected with a representative, who was able to grant me immediate access to the NFL Network. So far so good. Before he flipped the switch, though, he told me that there would be a one-time $1.99 service fee for adding new channels to my cable package.

Seriously? Two bucks to click some button somewhere? I gritted my teeth. I typed the word F…I…N…E… one key at a time, smashing each one down harder than the one before it. I queried the rep. If I had called instead of used the chat feature, would the same fee still be charged? "Yes," he said.

"So basically no matter what, you’re going to charge me a service fee just to add channels to my cable package? I’m adding things that I have to pay more for each month, yet you’re still going to charge me a service fee for the privilege of doing so?" I said.

"We have to charge the service fee to offset the cost of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," was his reply. "This has officially gotten out of hand," I said.

Consumers are caught between two entities that only care about money. And you know what? I don’t blame the cable companies or the NFL Network. Both of them control something that’s not affected by competition all that much and neither of them give a rat’s ass about you and me. What am I gonna do, stop watching football? I can’t. I’m hooked.

I can, however, stop paying out the nose for cable. If I’m already spending $100 per month on something I only really use to watch live football games, here’s what I propose to the NFL Network.

Once all your TV contracts end and you take all the games away from CBS, NBC, FOX, and ESPN to run them on your own network, I ask that you please develop your own set-top box. Deliver the games — ALL GAMES — wirelessly, through the Internet, IPTV, I don’t care how you do it, and feel free to charge me maybe $50 to $60 per month during the season and maybe $10 to $20 per month during the offseason. I’ll pay. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of developing your own set-top box, at least offer the games over the Internet in high definition and I’ll use my Media Center PC.

For those that won’t pay for it and don’t care about what happens in the offseason, offer the games live online, maybe at a reduced bitrate. Be a pal and make it free since you’ll be making money off the ads you show during the games and the ads you’ll undoubtedly run on your web site.

My point is this. Comcast and the cable companies are more evil. They don’t really want to be able to offer the NFL Network as part of your basic cable package. They want to be able to charge you $8 more per month plus a ridiculous $2 service fee for doing nothing. They love that you pay for it and that when you complain about how much it costs, they can point the finger squarely at the NFL Network. They love ANY excuse to raise rates, charge service fees, or whatever it takes to get into your wallet.

At least the NFL has the decency to make some of their games available via broadcast television. I’m not saying the NFL Network isn’t evil, it’s just my opinion that it’s less evil than the cable companies. Sure, the NFL charges a lot for its product. So much so, that it’s priced itself right out of a lot of cable networks. But for the most part, it’s a good, entertaining, valuable product that people are willing to pay for without causing too much fuss, which is more than I can say for cable.

That’s my stance on it, but what do you think? I’m admittedly a huge football fan so I’m already somewhat biased. Who’s more evil, the NFL Network or the cable companies?