Mar 17, 2011

The End of Sports On Free TV


Today I sat down to watch some of the NCAA basketball tournament for the first time in several years.  I used to follow it very closely, but in recent years I've gotten to where I follow the results for my bracket, more than I actually watch the games.

But it used to be I'd sit in front of the TV as soon as I got home from school, and later work, and turn on CBS channel 2 and see the games.  It was great to have it on a local free station that I could get without subscribing to cable, as when I was first starting out on my own I didn't have a lot of money to throw out for a cable package. 

However somewhere along the way, all these sports events have stopped being broadcast on regular free TV stations (the main channels of NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX) and instead have moved to the cable channels of ESPN, TNT, TBS and others.

Monday Night Football used to be a staple on regular TV.  ABC Monday Night Football was great.  Now it's on ESPN, which, here in my town, you have to subscribe to a digital package to receive.

The National Title Game in College Football used to be on NBC or ABC or CBS every year.  Now, it's also on ESPN.

The NCAA Tournament, at least these first days, are also being shown on TNT and TBS rather than the free CBS as it has in the past.  Were the ad rates for soap operas THAT much to miss out on?  Can't miss those execrable Judge shows, now can we?

This is a steady progression of high profile sports events migrating from free TV to the cable networks in attempts to force the viewers to shell out money for cable, which puts more money in the network's pockets. 

Disney gets more money by moving the MNF game to ESPN, than leaving it on the regular ABC station, because they count on the devoted fans and hardcore football freaks to pony up the dough so they can keep watching the game.

And don't even get me started on the stupid ass NFL network not being available in many markets, yet they have several high profile games on there that many fans miss out on.

Throw in the AT&T move recently to cap bandwidth, Comcast's attempts to screw Netflix by charging Level3 more money to deliver Netflix's streaming to Comcast customers, and this is just another example of the Cable Companies and TV networks screwing over the TV viewers.

This wouldn't be as big a problem if the networks and cable companies would just embrace the idea of an "A la Carte" style of doing things, where we could just order the networks we want, and not the ones we don't.  They say that would kill a bunch of networks because they're not popular enough to stay under that plan.  I get that, but there has to be a way to stop trying to gouge the customers, while also delivering modestly priced options.

In the end, the customers are the losers, and as usual the big congolomerate Cable companies are the big fat winners.

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