Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, December 07, 2021

patriot games
As loathe as I am to employ a decidedly overused phrase, I just have to as I ask this:

Is the New England Patriots’ pursuit of a perfect season creating the perfect storm for the National Football League in its efforts to force cable providers to add the NFL Network to their primary tier channel lineups?

That’s the emerging conspiracy theory, thanks to the Patriots’ two recent squeaker wins and the end-of-year NFL schedule:

No, the league isn’t raiding its rainy-day fund to take the Patriots to run the table, a bet that is increasingly popular in Vegas. But a lot is riding on whether the Patriots are unbeaten going into the Dec. 29 game against the New York Giants.

The NFL wants it to be must-see TV, but to see it you must watch the league’s own NFL Network. It’s one of eight games the league kept for itself this year, and one which some 70 million households won’t be able to see because of a bitter dispute the NFL is having with cable companies.

The more valuable the game, the more leverage the NFL figures it will have to force cable operators to carry the network on the lucrative basic cable tier. By far the most valuable game left this year will almost surely be Pats/Giants.

Take away the historic angle and it becomes a meaningless game between two teams most likely resting their stars for the playoffs. Make it mean something big and the NFL has a golden opportunity to force the hands of the cable companies.

The stakes are huge. If the NFL signs up all the major cable companies, it could be looking at revenues perhaps as high as $1 billion a year just for the network itself.

I guess the thinking here is that football fans will turn their wrath upon Comcast and Time Warner if the crowning of a 16-0 Patriots team is blacked out in most of the country. If enough cable customers wind up switching to satellite or other TV providers immediately afterward, it’ll be a strong sign that spurning the NFL comes at a cost. Presumably, watching New England go 15-1 won’t ignite the same passions.

Toss into this the flextime factor that NBC’s Sunday Night Football has in its hip pocket. NBC doesn’t get dibs to that final Pats game of the year — but they certainly are in a position to build the frenzy on a national level. Check out their options for the two weeks before season’s end:

- Week 15. NBC has Washington at Giants. Both might be in the playoff hunt. If not, since CBS protected Jaguars-Steelers, NBC might take CBS’ New York Jets at Pats — if the perfect season is still in play.

- Week 16. NBC’s Tampa Bay at San Francisco will likely be dropped from NBC. Best games, not protected: Fox’s Redskins at Vikings and Giants at Bills or CBS’ Miami at New England.

If New England is still undefeated by that point, you’d better believe NBC will help out the league by maximizing the exposure for those two games. It might be putting itself in position for retaliation by the cable providers down the road, but since the Patriots are already drawing monstrous ratings by virtue of the perfect-season dynamic, NBC’s short-term smart-money move is obvious.

Is it an active conspiracy by the league to pave the way to perfection? Extremely doubtful. But who doesn’t enjoy a whiff of scandal in the midst of a potentially historic season?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/07/2021 08:35:16 PM
Category: Football, SportsBiz, TV
| Permalink | Trackback |

3 Feedbacks »
  1. the only reason they keep winning is so the nfl can keep selling shirts and merch

    Comment by e — 12/29/2007 @ 11:27:18 PM

  2. Your comment made me laugh, …agreed on the last comment, intrigued by your info.

    Go Pats!!!!

    p.s. if you love football, pats fan or not, you want this, it’s momentous,we all know it. and it is legit. Promise, we are just that good, we all fall or rise according to a few miscalls and turnovers here or there. The system IS the system. NOTHING out of the ordinary this year versus any other year. I’ve been on the other side of the conspiracy claim. No conspiracy. Just Great Historic football, and you are either a fan or you aren’t. Either way, watch it and enjoy, don’t hate. It’s still great football, peace fellow AMericans!!!

    Comment by PAtsFanDieHard — 01/18/2008 @ 02:10:34 AM

  3. Sorry to disagree but I am an NFL Fan and I donnot want this to happen. Especially after the Pats* were caught breaking the rules. Sorry but when they win and they will Kraft will have to pay the NFL big time because this season was without a doubt set up by the NFL. They will always have an **** after this so called perfect season.

    Comment by Bob — 01/22/2008 @ 07:29:53 PM

RSS feed for feedback on this post.

Leave a comment

PLEASE NOTE: Various types of comment moderation may be triggered once you hit the "Say It!" button below. Common causes for this are the inclusion of several hyperlinks and/or spam words in the comment field. Please do not hit the "Say It!" button more than once. If you feel your comment is being blocked without cause, feel free to email me about it.