Wednesday, January 2, 2008

God Bless the NFL Network

It's the most popular league in all of American sports. And on November 4th, 2003, a cable network to provide 24/7 access and information about the NFL started to pop up on cable systems all over America. As the popularity of the network quickly began to spread, controversy over it began. While the slogan of the network used to be "everything but the games", the fact that it now shows 8 regular season NFL games is causing football fans in all 50 states to demand, "I want NFL Network."

The controversy lies in the fact that many cable systems (Time Warner, Charter, Cablevision, and more) feel it's a "niche" channel, and if people are going to get it, it should be included in a sports packaging tier. This way, people that don't care about the NFL (aka crazies) don't have to shuttle their way through the network. It's a terrible argument in my opinion, as I remember clicking past many women's entertainment channels, hope shopping networks, and even the Speed Channel, all of which I never watch (exeption: WE used to show Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place). It's only about money. Cable systems are using the NFL to try to get subscribers to pay more cash. At least that's how I feel, and I'd back up my statement with facts and analysis, but that would demand research!

What I did want to use this space for was to talk about just how great NFL Network is, and why it's worth your time to get it. Don't consider this a shameless plug for the network like you'll get at, this is true testimonial from a guy who's got the network and wouldn't know how to watch tv without out it.

I love that every preseason game is shown on the network, I love that you can watch the scouting combine, the draft, and actual games. I love that when they show the games, they have a three hour pre-game, even if it's a meaningless game like Bengals / 49ers. And you can't deny the countless hours of NFL Films produced programming, which features some of the finest game photography in sports. I think my favorite part of the network right now is the Sunday night "NFL Gameday". It's a highlight show that fills the void of ESPN's old NFL Primetime, without the painful homer that is Tom Jackson. Rich Eisen (who has become my favorite televison host), Steve Mariucci, and even Deion Sanders do a great job of wrapping up Sunday's events, it's cant-miss programming for me.

Many people say the NFL backed down to all the criticism this year by allowing CBS and NBC to show the Patriots / Giants Week 17 game, but that couldn't be further from the truth. That game was the most watched program on TV since February's Academy Awards, and that means 34.5 viewers not only saw the game, but got to see NFL Network produced pre-game, post-game, and game broadcast. Sounds to me more like free advertising that two broadcast networks supplied for nothing.

In short, if you like the NFL, or a sports fan of anykind, you have to do whatever it takes to get this channel.

NFL Network has become my go-to network to put on my tv when nothing else is on, passing ESPN. Which in fact leads me to a new game we're starting at Winks Thinks. It's called, what would I rather watch, NFLN or ESPN?

Let me click over to NFLN... Put Up Your Dukes with Jaime Dukes.
Now to ESPN.. Pacers / Magic highlights on SportsCenter.

Yikes... that's ESPN 1, NFLN 0. Maybe this was a dumb game.


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