Are you ready for some vertically-integrated football?
Tonight marks the NFL season's first Thursday night game and fans hoping to watch the Falcons play the Ravens will scour their cable or satellite line-ups to see if they get the rarely-watched NFL Network. While many will be disappointed, the real problems will hit in two weeks, when the New York Jets host the Cincinnati Bengals. Both cities rely heavily on Time Warner Cable (TWC), one of several cable systems that do not carry the NFL Network.
Over the past five years the NFL managed to strong-arm most cable and satellite companies into forking over monthly subscriber fees to carry the NFL Network year-round, a trick it accomplished by holding out a mere eight games a season for the channel's exclusive use, most on Thursday nights. As with other cable networks, subscribers pay the fees: in this case, roughly 50¢ per home, whether or not they want or watch the channel.
On the surface, that might seem like a swell strategy for the league. Why cut the broadcast networks or ESPN in on the profits when you can distribute games yourself? As for getting revenue from people who never watch your product—what's not to love?
Yet even if the league's goal is to wring every dollar it can from its TV rights—and that's just capitalism, after all—its vertical integration strategy seems increasingly shortsighted and anachronistic.
It has five teams, big time owners like Bill Hambrecht and Tim Armstrong, and even its first sold-out game. Welcome to the UFL.
By William D. Cohan
Are you ready for some more football?
Welcome to the United Football League, or UFL, now playing its second eight-game season in five smaller cities around the country. If you haven't heard of it, maybe you know some of the names behind it: Mark Cuban, billionaire MOREOct 8, 2010 12:24 PM ET
The United Kingdom is consistently the largest source of internet traffic on Akamai's network for World Cup related goodies -- including live game feeds, downloads, scores and follow-up stories.
Whether England and the lads can muster themselves and make a real run at the World Cup remains to be seen, but if nothing else, the United Kingdom looks like a lock as champion when it comes to online MOREMichael V. Copeland, Senior Writer - Jun 18, 2010 6:00 AM ET
|Where your donation dollars go|
|McDonald's gives Charles Ramsey free food for a year|
|Hedge fund guru says moms and trading don't mix|
|Investors consider life after Fed stimulus|
|Doomsday investors betting on market crash|