Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Dec 2006

'Sunday Ticket' Draws Wrath of Pennsylvania Lawmaker

ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports: "Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., claimed at the end of a Thursday hearing that he will sponsor legislation to strip the NFL of the antitrust exemption that permits the league to negotiate its television contracts for all 32 franchises, rather than have the teams do so individually."

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 08 Dec 2006

154 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2006, 11:59am by fromanchu

Comments

1
by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 12:48pm

The NFL added that its broadcast practices are "consistent with the public interest."

This should have read: "consistent with public interest for those with the ability to receive DirecTV."

2
by Alan P (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 12:51pm

I like putting pressure on the NFL to be more consumer friendly. I don't get why removing the antitrust exemption automatically means the NFL can't negotiate a deal for all teams. Basketball and hockey do some of the same thing without antitrust exemptions.

3
by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:07pm

Alan, I believe the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 applies to the NBA and MLB as well.

4
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:08pm

good on ya arlen. the owners' country club communism is ruining the sport. i'm fine with things like TV revenue sharing and a cap on the number of players on the roster, but so many of the NFL's policies are blatantly anti-competitive. even DR. Z has said the NFL needs to shake out the teams that are consistently at the bottom of the standings and aren't investing resources.

5
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:10pm

#2
subjecting the NFL to anti-trust regulations would do A LOT to change the league. it would greatly reduce the cartel power of the owners.

6
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:27pm

I'm all for forcing the league to make its games more available to the public. Sunday Ticket on DirectTV is blatantly anticompetitive and unfair.

But there's a lot of good, namely league parity and revenue sharing, that starts with the anti-trust legislation. The draft, the salary cap, revenue sharing--all of them could be thrown out as collusion were the league to completely lose its anti-trust exception.

What they need to do is to establish that, by controlling distribution in such a draconian manner, the NFL is violating the clause that grants it the exception, and bring them back into compliance with that clause, not strip the antitrust exemption entirely. That wouldn't be in anyone's interest (except for maybe some of the top player's).

7
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:28pm

Alan, I believe the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 applies to the NBA and MLB as well.

And hockey, as well. The law can be found here.

8
by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:35pm

If I understand things correctly, removing the NFL's anti-trust exemption will mean that the NFL will no longer be able to negotiate TV deals for the the whole league.

If that's correct it's a huge change. Even in the UK, all our major team sports leagues negotiate their TV deals collectively. NO team has a separate deal to the rest of the teams in its league.

Some of the bigger Soccer clubs have made preparations to do so, (Man Utd and Chelsea even have their own TV stations), but they've been unceremoniously slapped down. The "smaller" clubs realise that if the big four or five clubs could negotiate their own TV deals and keep the revenues, the little balance that the Premier League still has wuld be irretreviably lost.

I imagine that the same would apply in the NFL. If Washington, Dallas, New England, etc could go their own way the league would be fundamentally changed. If this is a play to ensure that the NFL makes it NFLN content more widely available, fine. If Senator Specter is for real, well, this way madness lies.

*All the above comes with the caveat, that I understand how the current system works.*

9
by TBW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:36pm

Why on Earth would Arlen Specter have a better handle on how to treat NFL fans than the NFL itself ? If the NFL is treating it's fans so poorly, it will lose them, end of story. There is no need for the government to get involved. This whole thing is assinine.

10
by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:37pm

Sorry for the double post.

I don't know how the law stands in the US. Would an end to Anti-Trust exemption, invalidate the CBA, or would the owners use it as a reason to renege on it?

11
by TBW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:39pm

Oh, and this will never happen, not if the legislation that would have to be altered applies to every major team sport. If they try to do something to single out the NFL that will probably get slapped down in the courts in a hurry. One professional sports league can't be "less equal" than another.

12
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:41pm

james,
there's a happy medium, though, between the NFL's totally anti-competitive structure and Europe's totally open structure. NFL owners really have no incentive to make sure their teams win. Yeah, some teams are worth more than others, but there's not nearly enough punishment for teams that lose. in fact, they get rewarded with the top draft pick (although a lot of us know that's a mixed blessing due to cap issues). i actually think there should be a modified type of promotion/relegation, where teams have to play into the top half of the league to get a bigger share of next year's tv revenues and play in the playoffs. it's very unlikely to ever happen, though.

13
by Dan R. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:43pm

#9

Yeah, taking away a government enacted exemption is the pinnacle of involvement.

As an NFL fan, this is great. I don't really care about the NFL's profit margin. Just give the damn games.

14
by Kyle, Louisville (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:44pm

If I'm not mistaken, completely removing anti-trust status would eliminate the draft as well. Maybe someone knowledgeable of antitrust laws could elaborate on some of the major points?

15
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:56pm

#9
the government is always involved in regulating commerce. always has been, always will be. the NFL ownership cartel was explicitly given by congress. congress already has given them carte blanche to maintain regional monopolies and enact a salary cap. did the government give your boss the right to cap everyone in your industry's salary? or give your company a regional monopoly? not likely...

16
by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:58pm

It's not clear from the article whether Specter is more concerned about Sunday Ticket or the NFL Network. Sunday Ticket was challenged by a class action lawsuit in Specter's own state several years ago with little changes resulting from the settlement.

17
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:59pm

Why on Earth would Arlen Specter have a better handle on how to treat NFL fans than the NFL itself ?

Um. Let me substitute company names, and one word.

"Why on Earth would Arlen Specter have a better handle on how to treat Microsoft customers than Microsoft itself?"

Answer in both cases: the company does not have the same interests as the customers. The company wants to make the most money. The consumer wants to buy the best product at the best price.

Note the "strip antitrust exemption" part - the NFL's a monopoly (they even had to pay $3 in a lawsuit because they're a monopoly!). The only reason they're not getting massive lawsuits against them is because the government said "yeah, you have a monopoly, but you're not abusing it and in this case, the monopoly benefits the consumer."

If the NFL's working against consumer interests (by restricting Sunday Ticket to one vendor so that an excessive price can be charged for it) it's the government's duty to do this. They're the one that granted the antitrust exemption. Without it, there'd be slews of lawsuits against the NFL for the exclusivity of the DirecTV contract.

18
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:02pm

Oh, and this will never happen, not if the legislation that would have to be altered applies to every major team sport. If they try to do something to single out the NFL that will probably get slapped down in the courts in a hurry. One professional sports league can’t be “less equal� than another.

Have you looked at the law? There are plenty of laws that apply only to professional football leagues, including 15 U.S.C. 1291 (antitrust laws do not apply to mergers), 15 U.S.C. 1293 (pro football games can not be televised on Fridays or Saturdays during the high school/college season), and Section 501(c)(6) of the IRS code (pro football leagues are exempt from taxation). Pete Rozelle was one hell of a lobbyist.

19
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:03pm

Sorry, cannot give meaningful comment on antitrust law. However, I would remind everyone that, if individual NFL teams were allowed to negotiate their own deals, the competitive balance of the NFL would be destroyed. Just think of the way MLB operates. Every season the New York Yankees start with a TV deal that is several times that of most teams and probably 10 times that of small market teams. The result is that baseball, a once great game, now sucks for fans in most cities. Truth is, if you root for the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals, Pirates, etc., MLB basically has told you to go f--- off.

And no, the Orioles are NOT a large market team. Sure, they're hopelessly mismanaged by a malevolently incompetent owner, but in the AL East, the presence of the two highest payroll teams makes it a waste of time for everyone else.

A uniform TV deal and revenue sharing are essential to a competitve league.

20
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:10pm

Truth is, if you root for the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals, Pirates, etc., MLB basically has told you to go f— off.

Or the Tigers, Twins, A's, or the Marlins, right?. Never underestimate the value of incompetent management. Gil Meche, 5 years, $55 million!

21
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:12pm

why should teams with smaller fan bases and smaller revenue be able to reap the same revenues as the giants, redskins, patriots, etc.? where's the incentive to, you know, actually win games?

22
by KevinWho (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:15pm

Arlen Specter. Author of the "single bullet" theory. The fellow who, in the second incidence of presidential impeachment under the U.S. constitution, cited Scots Law (!) and voted "not proven."

I'll tell you what's not proven: that he is not blatanly in Comcast's pocket.

23
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:16pm

> Sunday Ticket was challenged by a class action lawsuit in Specter’s own state several years ago with little changes resulting from the settlement.

As a 10+ year Sunday Ticket subscriber, I actually received a check for about $100 from this (or a similar) class-action settlement, which claimed that the Sunday Ticket should also be available on a PPV basis as opposed to just the season-long package (of course this practice hasn't changed as a result). I think they estimated a damages payout of about $10 at my subscription level, but there were so few respondents to the complaint that the actual payout was fairly substantial, as these things go.

I support this latest action but am also skeptical that anything will happen. How many times have we heard a member of Congress threatening to strip one sports league or another of its antitrust exemption, be it around a labor dispute, the steroids controversy, etc.? Has anything ever come of that?

24
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:19pm

Re: 21

With all due respect, if you take this "free market" approach to the high revenue teams, why not just forfeit the games they play against the small market teams? It makes no sense to regard the teams as competing business entities--they really are more akin to subsidiaries of the larger business entity--the league.

25
by karl (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:19pm

Many are assuming that if these rights were taken away they would be able to see more games - I contend that not only would they see less games (the networks would focus on picking up popular teams) but they would also see the nfl become like baseball, where the same 3 or 4 outspend everyone else etc.etc.

The current TV deal is great for fans not just bc of the way games are shown, but more importantly bc of the way they share the money generated by TV deals. I like my NFL socialist.

26
by C (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:22pm

The NFL is a great product, and that's what matters. I fail to uderstand why they don't do more to make more games available to people who would like to see them on game day and are willing to pay for them, but without getting DirectTV or what-have-you. However, I'm sure that this arrangement generates money for them, which helps all the teams.

#21: one of the things that makes the NFL great is its respect for tradition and its competitive balance. Teams in Green Bay or Cincinati are important to the popularity of the league.

27
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:26pm

Re: 22

Thanks for the laugh. How can any of us forget the "single bullet theory"??

That has to qualify as the ballsiest line of sheer bulls--t ever fed to us rubes. I suppose if the masses are to suspend disbelief of the laws of physics, then it shouldn't surprise us that we're also to be regarded as ignorant of the laws of economics, or for that matter, we're too stupid to notice when politicians are in the pockets of vested interests.

Don't get me wrong. The NFL are the fattest pigs at the trough, as was pointed out, e.g., in post 18. It's simply a case of hoping against hope that when the dust clears, the resulting regulatory structure doesn't resemble the abomination that is MLB.

28
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:28pm

Re: 25

I agree wholeheartedly.

29
by dbt (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:28pm

Of course they haven't actually done it. It's the nuclear brinksmanship of legislative threats against a league.

It gets them to come into compliance, gives them the necessary leverage with third parties if necessary (MLB and the union re: steroids), and generally shakes things up.

The fact that a new commish is facing this instead of a a guy who's been around for decades and has strong credibility with the public also doesn't hurt. Plus, Specter has a lot of time on his hands now that he's in the minority...

30
by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:29pm

The whole 'no incentive to win games' is a good point. Until ownership are penalised financially for sub-standard performance, the Fords & Bidwills will continue to steal money.

If the bottom 12 teams in the league lost 2 home games the following year, you'd create an incentive pretty quickly.

31
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:33pm

Re: 20

There certainly is ground for what you say. However, I would qualify it by pointing out that in the AL East, mediocre teams generally have zero chance to make it to the postseason. That situation does not apply to any other division in baseball.

In fact, the expansion of playoffs in baseball appears to have made it more likely for marginal teams to win the World Series. A team with two ace starters may not be built to earn the best record over 162 games, but is lights out in a short series. Especially because home field advantage in baseball is much more attenuated than in the NFL.

32
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:37pm

However, I would remind everyone that, if individual NFL teams were allowed to negotiate their own deals, the competitive balance of the NFL would be destroyed.

Eh. I don't agree there. The CBA wouldn't be revoked, and so teams would still have a salary cap/floor tied to total gross revenues. Teams would just be forced to negotiate a slightly altered revenue sharing plan, or go bankrupt. The Redskins wouldn't be able to keep all of their TV revenue without forcing the Jaguars, Cardinals, etc. out of business.

The whole ‘no incentive to win games’ is a good point. Until ownership are penalised financially for sub-standard performance, the Fords & Bidwills will continue to steal money.

Owners do have an incentive to field winning teams - because otherwise they're throwing money away. They have to spend money on players - the salary floor is quite high. Period. You can't just put cheap players on the field. So if you're going to spend $90M on a team, they might as well generate some local interest.

Yeah, you can spend less money on coaches, scouts, etc., but even the cheapest coaches/scouts have incentive to do a good job because of the possibility of lots of money elsewhere. The cheapest front office in the league in previous years was the Minnesota Vikings, who did pretty well.

The reason the Lions suck is because of their front office, which isn't underpaid, just stupid.

33
by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:48pm

Pat,

I overstated my point a little, but I stand by it. The financial returns to success are low enough to make spending the minimum burequired a viable option. Ownership still make money through the revenue-sharing agreements, and the apreciation in the value of a franchise over time. Red McCombs did this, and he cleaned up whern he sold.

If financial incentives were aligned more closely with footballing incentives, even the perennial bottom-feeders would need to show sustained improvement on the field. One or two bad years in 10. Fine. More than that and it starts to hurt in the one place most owners notice. Their pocket. Except the Lions. Who are fated to suck. Forever.

34
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:55pm

Re. "Owners do have an incentive to field winning teams - because otherwise they’re throwing money away."

All true, but still, an NFL owner doesn't have to sweat much if he doesn't win. The incentive may indeed be there to try, but the market forces which would simply drive out sustained incompetence don't exist. Hence, Bidwell, Ford and the like live on.

Still, given the consequences, I don't like the alternative. Except with those extreme cases, I think some fans equate losing with malfeasance when losing half the time is simply fundamental to competition. But if something like this threat can move the NFL off its positions on Sunday Ticket and the NFL Network, I'm all for it.

35
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:56pm

Except the Vikings, over that time period, were more 'mediocre' than 'bad'. That's kindof my point - there's definitely no incentive to spend money on a front office and coaching staff. However, there is incentive to change things if there's no wins on the field, because the owner's still the one paying tons of money to the players. And so cheap owners end up with severely underpaid coaches who will end up going elsewhere for lots of money, intermixed with moron coaches.

It's funny, but in football, I think the cheapest owners are the ones who generate results are constantly in the middle of the pack (occasionally bouncing to the bottom), not the bottom. Consistently being a bottom feeder is a sign that the owner/front office is stupid.

36
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:58pm

Owners have to share their ticket sales (minus some details about luxury boxes and so forth) equally. Assuming they could negotiate their own TV deals, why wouldn't they have to share those equally as well? So if Snyder starts the Skins Network (equivalent to YES), he only gets to keep 1/32 of the revenue earned from that network.

37
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:01pm

This guy is one of the worst sitting Senators. If the government wants to get involved in any type of football... how about looking at college football?

I don't see NFL Sunday Ticket as anything other than "Speciality programming". Is he saying EVERYONE has the right to purchase NFL Sunday Ticket? What about ESPN and Monday Night Football rights?

Does this mean we have the right to see Starz HD, or HBO HD or other "specialty" programming not offered by cable but offered by satelite?

Doesn't NFL Sunday Ticket benefit people living outside of their team's region? Even if we can't get satelite, we know there are bars that WILL have every game on.

38
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:03pm

i know my this would NEVER EVER EVER EVER happen, but I really would love for the NFL to change its structure: restrict revenue sharing to TV revenues only. have two or three league tiers. relegate and promote the top two teams in each tier. get rid of the draft (why should the best young stars automatically go to the worst teams). rapidly expand the number of teams, especially by adding teams in markets that can suppport a second team (LA obviously, but there's no reason chicago couldn't have three or four teams and NYC five or six professional teams).
we can all dream of being commish, can't we. ;)

39
by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:04pm

Re: 23
I received a check, too, but it was for nowhere near that amount. It was more like $10 plus a bunch of discount coupons. As a result, Sunday Ticket is supposed to be available on week-to-week basis without having to purchase the full season.

40
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:05pm

Re. "Assuming they could negotiate their own TV deals, why wouldn’t they have to share those equally as well?"

That might also be in violation of antitrust law. There certainly wouldn't be a great incentive to sink resources into the "Skins Network" at a 1/32 share, and the courts could see the whole thing as a transparent replacement of the existing system.

41
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:10pm

"I received a check, too, but it was for nowhere near that amount. It was more like $10 plus a bunch of discount coupons."

Right, the amount depended on how long you'd been a subscriber-- I'd been one since Day 1 in 1994. Either that, or someone screwed up.

"As a result, Sunday Ticket is supposed to be available on week-to-week basis without having to purchase the full season."

This was my other point-- this did not happen, nor likely will it. These class action settlements often act as nuisance payments to make the complainants go away, with no admission of liability, or effecting no change.

42
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:11pm

I agree with whoever said this is all about Comcast. Dirty politicians... all of them... and most of them stay dirty.

Of all the things for a Senator to complain about TV... football?!

How about the fact that we can't get non-local networks. I'd like to watch NBC/FOX/CBS via the East Coast feeds if I could... why can't I get my locals and another out of regions? How come they keep pushing the HDTV mandate back and back and back?

Will they also go after Sirius for exclusive radio rights? What about EA Sports exclusive video game rights?

43
by BK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:13pm

Is this why Murdoch sold his DirecTV control to John Malone and Liberty?

44
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:17pm

Re: 32

The CBA wouldn’t be revoked, and so teams would still have a salary cap/floor tied to total gross revenues. Teams would just be forced to negotiate a slightly altered revenue sharing plan, or go bankrupt.

Respectfully have to disagree. I think the CBA and revenue sharing are pieces of a larger structure. What makes you think wealthy teams like the Redskins and Cowboys would agree to a CBA that ties their hands once they are allowed unlimited access to tap the gold mine of "their" own TV rights?

45
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:21pm

To clarify a common misconception about antitrust law:

Having or being a monopoly is not illegal. And it is possible to violate antitrust law even if you do not have a monopoly (it's called collusion). Monopolies are allowed to exist, and are even protected by the government, when the government views them as beneficial to the public. Examples (I believe, not sure of all of these) include (or, until recently included) most utility companies, the US Postal Service, most public transit systems, the company that controls domain name registration, etc.

The root of antitrust law in the US is the Sherman act. I don't remember all the details from my last law course, but from what I remember, it basically boils down to two main thrusts. First, disparate entities are not allowed to collude--i.e. work together--to thwart free market forces and artifically inflate prices. I.e. you're not allowed to circumvent competition. If you viewed the NFL as 32 separate competing businesses, then collusion would definitely apply. However, as someone else pointed out, I'm not sure that definition fits.

The second thrust concerns monopolies. Monopolies can legally exist--they often come about when someone has a product that is genuinely better than everyone elses, or as a result of mergers (both apply to the NFL). However, what is illegal under anti-trust law is using your position as a monopoly to construct barriers to entry or to circumvent market forces such that the consumer is hurt.

The NFL's antitrust exemption, I would assume, is justified by the argument that by allowing some circumvention of market forces (i.e. revenue sharing, having the salary cap, the draft, controlling the schedule, etc.) the product is improved and hence it is in the public interest. However, the NFL has now started to engage in business practices where it is abusing its position as a monopoly to increase its profits at the expense of the consumer through practices that in no way improve the quality of the product.

If the NFL made all it's games for sale to the TV and radio networks (or to individual people for that matter) for "reasonable market prices" (how that would be determined probably woudl depend on how much other entertainment with similar ratings was priced), then I don't think there would be a problem. But the problem is that the NFL is doing things like the exclusivity contract with DirectTV, and now putting games on the NFL network only and charging what (the cable companies claim) is unreasonably high prices. In other words, the NFL is using it's government protected position as the only provider of American Football to artificially raise prices and place clauses in contracts that increase its profits at the expense of the distribution corporations and hence, indirectly, the consumer. These practices in no way increase the quality or popularity of the sport--they serve merely to line the NFL's pockets. Put another way, the NFL is charging higher prices and negotiating more favorable contracts than it would if there were two or three other equally popular football leagues in the US also trying to sell their games to the TV networks, cable companies, satellite companies, radio stations, etc.

It would be very easy to fix. Congress would only need to amend the antitrust exemption legislation to require that the NFL's product be available at fair market rates to whoever wanted to purchase them. No more exclusivity clauses.

46
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:22pm

Re. "Does this mean we have the right to see Starz HD, or HBO HD or other “specialty� programming not offered by cable but offered by satelite?"

Aren't most of these channels at least available for sale to the individual cable companies, with their availability subject to negotiations or other limitations with the provider?

I guess it's not a "right" to receive any programming, but it still doesn't seem quite right that the NFL has struck a deal with a single provider for a package that many consumers can't buy even if they want to (as opposed to Sirius, etc.). Throw in the fact that the NFL may only be allowed to negotiate such a deal in the first place via an antitrust exemption, and that may be a legitimate argument.

47
by karl (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:31pm

the incentive to win would be decreased if shared revenues went away - teams in small markets simply dont have the economics to compete with the big market teams without revenue sharing. it would simply cost too much to win if there were no revenue sharing - to the point that those teams could not turn a profit if they actually spent the money necessary to put together winning teams. consider baseball - ie: the marlins every time they win the world series.

48
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:32pm

Re: 45

Just to be clear, the NFL does not have an antitrust exemption for the league itself, but rather an exemption to pool and sell broadcast rights. Only baseball of the four major sports has a full-fledged antitrust exemption, thanks to several questionable Supreme Court rulings and Congress's reluctance to deal with the issue. (Baseball was ruled exempt by the Supreme Court in 1922 and again in 1953, but the NFL was not in the 1957 Radovich decision.)

49
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:37pm

#47:
st. louis and detroit played in the last world series, no? in england, you routinely have soccer teams from very small cities like reading and wigan playing competitively at the top level despite no salary cap, draft, roster cap, gate revenue sharing, etc. what's the problem? if a team doesn't have a big enough local fan base and financial backing, why should they be able to compete for a super bowl every year, and have as much talent on the field as teams with more fans and better financial backing?

50
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:40pm

Re: "Just to be clear, the NFL does not have an antitrust exemption for the league itself, but rather an exemption to pool and sell broadcast rights."

Right, but as opposed to those other elements negotiated in the CBA (salary cap, draft, revenue sharing etc.) this limited antitrust exemption is directly relevant to the issue with Sunday Ticket and the NFL Network, correct? I agree with MJK's conclusions on that subject, that at the very least the NFL's distribution and pricing should be subject to review.

51
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:46pm

Just to be clear, the NFL does not have an antitrust exemption for the league itself, but rather an exemption to pool and sell broadcast rights.

Absolutely! Which is why they had to pay the USFL $3 - because they were a monopoly. Those evil NFL guys. I'm sure that taught them a lesson. :)

What makes you think wealthy teams like the Redskins and Cowboys would agree to a CBA that ties their hands once they are allowed unlimited access to tap the gold mine of “their� own TV rights?

Nothing.

But that wouldn't get them out of the CBA they already signed.

52
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:49pm

Anti-trust accusations are for retarded losers in business who don't have a competitive bone in their body, and don't want to be bothered with the difficulty of actually competing against other businessmen. In this case, Arlen Specter is carrying water for his boys at Comcast, who just can't figure out how to outbid DirectTV for rights to Sunday Ticket. Since they are unable to compete, it is "obvious" that DirectTV and the NFl must be doing something unfair.

Its amazing the sort of communisitic parasitism that passes for economic discussion here.

The government does not grant rights, such as the right of the NFl to conduct business as it pleases (rather, it receives what powers it has from we, the people, who retain all rights, since they are ours by nature), therefore, the right of the NFL to offer its product as it wishes is not something it gets from the munificence of Washington. Furthermore, since the NFL is in business as a real corporate person, it has the natural right to do business with whomever it pleases, and to refuse to do business with whomever it pleases. Furthermore, it has the natural right to conduct its business on whatever terms are mutually agreeable to all participants.

Read the US Constitution very carefully. You'll see absolutely nothing at all regarding regulation of sports, TV broadcasts, or "trusts" among the enumerated powers granted to Congress.

Sadly, the ignorant majority of Americans have allowed our government to be turned completly on its head, to the point where it now holds all the powers and rights, and individual citizens and groups of citizens banded together in corporation and trade associations and unions are held under suspscion of violating any number of specious laws whenever one powerful contributor is able to shovel enough money to a corrupt politician to start the wheels of (in)justice rolling.

The entire trend of comments on this thread are ridiculously unamerican and against the spirit of the free enterprise system.

The NFL is most emphatically NOT a monopoly. A monopoly can only occur where a government erects barriers to entrance of new competitors against an existing business. However, anyone is free to start up a professional football league with absolutely no restrictions on their doing so. In fact, since the NFL was created, a number of alternative leagues have been formed (the All American Football League, the American Football League, the US Football League, and the Arena Football League).

In short, if you don't like how the NFL runs its business, go create a competitor or put your time and money somewhere else! And if you can't get DirectTV to get Sunday Ticket, its only because you've done nothing to try to get a satellite dish with a clear view of the southern sky, as they say. Excuses like, "well, there are trees in the way" or other obsturctions are give-up excuses of people who think that items of great expense caused solely by how they've chosen to live (in this case, the need to trim trees, or put an antennae on a tower) should be paid for by someone else besides them - the proverbial free lunch.

It is amazing what a bunch of socialisitic whiners Americans have become!

If the attitude shown here were general throughout the US, DirectTV would never even have been started and so we wouldn't need to worry about this issue because (handwringing and profuse tears) "Oh gosh, its impossible to compete with the big bad cable companies, we just can't do a thing about their being our only alternative for getting TV." (/handwringing and profuse tears).

No one is stopping the Cable Companies from going to the NFL and pitching alternative ideas for yet another set of broadcast alternatives to Sunday Ticket. They just don't feel like making the effort. They'd rather have what DirectTV and the NFL have worked so hard to build-up into something valuable given to them by fiat under the color of law, but really through the reality of politcal corruption.

53
by johnt (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:50pm

How is the NFL the "sole provider of American Football"? NCAAF? Arena? Everyone is free to start their own league (see: XFL, The). The fact that nobody wants to watch it on TV is not the NFL's problem. If they were doing something to sabotage potential competitors that would be one thing, but they just make a product that people want. Thank God Arlen Specter is here to guarantee us our god-given right to NFL games ... provided we pay $75 a month to his buddies at Comcast.

54
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:51pm

Right, but as opposed to those other elements negotiated in the CBA (salary cap, draft, revenue sharing etc.) this limited antitrust exemption is directly relevant to the issue with Sunday Ticket and the NFL Network, correct?

Yup. Post #45 got into some things that aren't covered by the exemption, and I just wanted to clarify.

55
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:56pm

Absolutely! Which is why they had to pay the USFL $3 - because they were a monopoly. Those evil NFL guys. I’m sure that taught them a lesson. :)

Plus $6-10 million in court costs, which was still a mere slap on the wrist compared to the $2.4 billion the USFL wanted. Had the USFL not been so poorly run (Donald Trump, I'm looking at you), and instead stuck with spring football, they might have won a much higher damage award.

56
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:58pm

GlennW #46:

I guess it’s not a “right� to receive any programming, but it still doesn’t seem quite right that the NFL has struck a deal with a single provider for a package that many consumers can’t buy even if they want to (as opposed to Sirius, etc.).

How is Sunday Ticket exclusively on DirectTV any different than any other exclusive deal that is struck in any business?

I'm an engineer. Is it wrong for me to negotiate an exclusive services contract with a firm needing engineering work to prevent competitive firms from getting any of this business? How is that action any different?

The example of Sirius is quite appropriate. Unless you have Sirius, you cannot receive broadcasts of NFL games (or Howard Stern) anywhere in the country you wish to be. Aren't those deals just as "anti-competive" as you chose to put it as Sunday Ticket?

DirectTV is available anywhere in the country. If you claim you can't get it, its only because you don't want to spend the money to ensure a clear view of the southern sky, and so are hoping someone else will pay for it for you, not because where you live lacks a southern sky. Last I checked, everywhere in the US has a southern sky with DirectTV signals being broadcast into it. How is it DirectTV's fault if you refuse to take the steps necessary to receive their signals?

57
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 3:59pm

johnt #53:

Spot on re: Comcast brother!

58
by Zzyzx (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:02pm

" if a team doesn’t have a big enough local fan base and financial backing, why should they be able to compete for a super bowl every year, and have as much talent on the field as teams with more fans and better financial backing? "

Because the rich teams have to play someone. Sports are weird in that, while you want to win, you also want to have credible foes.

59
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:03pm

Re: 49

Detroit is currently the 10th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., not exactly a small market. St. Louis is 18th, but draws from a huge multi-state region, so neither Detroit nor St. Louis is even remotely a small market team.

60
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:07pm

Re: 57

Exactly. It's the same point I tried to make in post 24, but you made the point more clearly.

61
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:11pm

Re: 51

Nothing.

But that wouldn’t get them out of the CBA they already signed.

I think that's a pretty short-sighted view. The CBA expires every few years. Under the proposed circumstances, it seems pretty obvious the new version would grant unlimited "freedom" to the Cowboys, Redskins, et al. to play against non-competitive opponents. Or else there would be no agreement. Which would suit the fat cats even better.

62
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:21pm

Last I checked, everywhere in the US has a southern sky with DirectTV signals being broadcast into it.

Many residences in Manhattan don't. Hilly/mountainous areas might not. Homes with large trees to the south might not.

63
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:23pm

Re: "How is Sunday Ticket exclusively on DirectTV any different than any other exclusive deal that is struck in any business?"

I would say that it is different based on the distinction that others have made-- that the contract may only be legal due to the NFL's antitrust exemption. Howard Stern etc. doesn't have or need an exemption, as he's not operating as a virtual (albeit legal) monopoly, as is the NFL. Why was the exemption even put in place to begin with, some 45 years ago? Apparently someone believed that these professional sports leagues enjoyed special status, but deserved protection based in the public interest. But if you think the broadcasting antitrust exemption is effectively meaningless and unnecessary, I'm willing to listen to that argument.

64
by David (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:24pm

Andrew: Are you denying the existence of homes whose geography prevents the installation and use of a sattelite dish? What am I supposed to do, saw a hole in the walls separating my apartment and my neighbor's, and then point the dish at his window?

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:26pm

#60: It's not a shortsighted view - most of the small market teams couldn't take a few years of operating without the TV revenue.

If this happened (which it won't), the owners would negotiate TV deals, and then they would rapidly negotiate a revenue sharing agreement probably functionally identical to the current one.

I’m an engineer. Is it wrong for me to negotiate an exclusive services contract with a firm needing engineering work to prevent competitive firms from getting any of this business?

Are you the only engineer in the country?

That's the difference.

Aren’t those deals just as “anti-competive� as you chose to put it as Sunday Ticket?

Yes.

You could also say "well, the only place you can see MNF games is on ESPN, so isn't that anticompetitive?" and the answer to that is no - because ESPN doesn't sell themselves directly to customers. They sell themselves to cable companies, which means, in essence, you're converting a monopoly (NFL games on MNF) into not-a-monopoly (available from many cable companies) from the customer (an NFL fan)'s point of view. Hence the reason that antitrust exemption exists.

The same's not true for Sirius and DirecTV, both of which sell directly to customers.

66
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:26pm

Travis #62:

Did something take away the southern sky in Manhattan and in the Mountains and in the trees? Is there a black hole there instead?

Or are the inhabitants of these places just not willing to spend the money to string cable from a receiver put in a position to have a clear view?

When I was growing up, my neighborhood did not get cable until 1986. If anyone wanted it before then, they had to pay to get the wires run into the block. Same with DSL service in many places today. Or wireless internet. Etc., etc.

Don't whine that you can't get service because you want someone else to pay for the expense of installation due to your choice of living in a high cost installation area. You DO have a Southern Sky and there are DirectTV signals in it that you could receive if you so choose.

67
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:28pm

David #64:

Convince the owner of the building to put one dish on the roof and run cables to whoever wants DirectTV service. Yes, you might have to pay a bit more than a simle free installation, and you might see your rent go up. Boo-fricking-who.

68
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:31pm

Pat #65:

They sell themselves to cable companies, which means, in essence, you’re converting a monopoly (NFL games on MNF) into not-a-monopoly (available from many cable companies) from the customer (an NFL fan)’s point of view.

The vast majority of places have only one cable company, if they have one at all, due to the government only giving out one cable franchise. Ergo, natural monopoly. If you want MNF on cable, you must get your local extortionate cable company.

69
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:32pm

Re. "Many residences in Manhattan don’t. Hilly/mountainous areas might not. Homes with large trees to the south might not."

Millions of people could never receive DirecTV for practical purposes. I think Andrew was making the point in the extreme, that because there's a signal out there a person is free to do whatever is necessary to gain access to it (including moving to another location). That's not convincing to me, but admittedly it's a sidebar to the real issue of whether the NFL should be allowed to do whatever the hell it wants.

70
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:33pm

The NFL is most emphatically NOT a monopoly.

USFL vs NFL, 1986.

The NFL is most emphatically a monopoly (an illegal one, too), according to the six jurors in the Federal District Court case.

It cost them a whole of $3. Actually $3.76. They needed to pay interest.

71
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:35pm

Did something take away the southern sky in Manhattan ... ?

Large office and apartment buildings.

Why was the exemption even put in place to begin with, some 45 years ago?

Pete Rozelle's lobbying. He first tried to get a declaratory judgment allowing pooled broadcast rights from the federal courts, but they ruled against the NFL.

72
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:40pm

the issue of "credible opponents" is so overblown. a nation of 300 million should be able to support more than 32 professional teams. Belgium, a third-rate soccer nation smaller than most U.S. states supports 70 professional soccer teams. Who's making these ridiculous profits by limiting competition here? How is that in the public interest? There is plenty of talent to stock existing small market teams and many more expansion teams.

73
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:40pm

The vast majority of places have only one cable company, if they have one at all, due to the government only giving out one cable franchise.

Vast majority? Vast majority of populated areas have more than one. It's only the less-populated areas that have only one. Every place I've ever lived has had at least two.

If the cable companies in that area engaged in predatory pricing of ESPN packages, then that would matter. In general, cable providers that are the only providers in that area are usually careful about keeping pricing inline with national trends to avoid predatory pricing concerns.

That's gotten less important with the existence of satellite TV, which means that they have competitors.

Did something take away the southern sky in Manhattan

Yes. Buildings. Just like the one behind my old apartment that prevented a line-of-sight to a satellite.

That doesn't even address people in an apartment without a south-facing wall. You only have rights (by the FCC) to put up a dish on walls you have exclusive access to.

74
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:41pm

Re: "Pete Rozelle’s lobbying. He first tried to get a declaratory judgment allowing pooled broadcast rights from the federal courts, but they ruled against the NFL."

Thanks. So ostensibly the NFL had a real problem on its hands, where without such a judgment or exemption they weren't going to be able to proceed with their national broadcasting plan (or it might have otherwise been challenged), which is fundamentally the same structure in place today.

75
by Tighthead (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:41pm

#64 - David - you should at least give it a try.

76
by JasonK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:42pm

In antitrust parliance, I believe that the best case to be made against DirecTV/NFL would be as a "tying restraint." That is, the NFL has market power as the exclusive provider of a product (live broadcasts of all NFL games every weekend). However, in order to purchase said product, consumers must also buy DirecTV satelite service, a product which is reasonably fungible with other similar products on the marketplace (expanded cable & other satelite providers). This harms consumers because it distorts the balance of pricing competition in the marketplace for the tied product.

(I don't recall what precisely the legal test is to determine if a tying restraint is illegal-- any help on that regard would be appreciated.)

77
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:44pm

Yes, you might have to pay a bit more than a simle free installation, and you might see your rent go up. Boo-fricking-who.

Or he could say no.

78
by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:46pm

The NFL is most emphatically a monopoly (an illegal one, too), according to the six jurors in the Federal District Court case.

The same ruling was made in LAMCC v. NFL (Al Davis suing for the right to move to Los Angeles). The penalties were around $50 million at trial (later settled down to around $20 million).

79
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:48pm

Re: 52

I don't even know where to start on this. I'll just suggest for anyone who thinks of the NFL as some sort of Ayn Rand hero, just think about the hundreds of millions of dollars each team has extorted from state and local governments to provide their facilities. The reality of the NFL is almost the opposite of free competition.

Re: 68

How is a government-sanctioned cable TV monopoly in a local market "natural"?

80
by David (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:49pm

Even if he (she, actually) did agree, wouldn't a step that raises rent for the entire building be expecting someone else to pay for the expense of giving me sattelite TV? I heard that was bad somewhere.

81
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:49pm

#76: See here, under tying arranging. And yes, NFL's DirecTV agreement would hit every single one of those points, spot on. Thanks for reminding me of the wording - it's been a long time since my class on that.

82
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:53pm

Re: 38

I find it hard to believe that anyone that would basically call for the complete reconstruction of football would waste their time on a website exclusively devoted to that very sport. Wanting a change in the revenue sharing system is one thing. But splitting the league into tiers?!? Getting rid of the draft?!? Rapid expansion of a league currently at the perfect size?!? 3 or 4 teams in Chicago?!? 5 or 6 in NY?!?

I'm dumbfounded that anyone who considers themselves a fan of the sport of football could suggest any of those things with a straight face, let alone all of them in the same post. You're astonishing.

83
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 4:55pm

Re: 65

#60: It’s not a shortsighted view - most of the small market teams couldn’t take a few years of operating without the TV revenue.

If this happened (which it won’t), the owners would negotiate TV deals, and then they would rapidly negotiate a revenue sharing agreement probably functionally identical to the current one.

Why on earth would large market teams agree to such an arrangement? What makes you think large and small market teams would engage in arms-length negotiations when the big boys hold all the leverage? In all likelihood we would be cursed with a situation like that which obtains in MLB today. The New York Yankees are not about to share "their" TV revenue with the Kansas City Royals.

84
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:03pm

Re. "I’m dumbfounded that anyone who considers themselves a fan of the sport of football could suggest any of those things with a straight face, let alone all of them in the same post. You’re astonishing."

I don't agree with most of his proposals, but there's a difference between being a fan of the sport and a fan of its exact corporate structure. The guy would like to see NFL football in person in Des Moines IA, that's his right.

85
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:04pm

Re: "The same ruling was made in LAMCC v. NFL (Al Davis suing for the right to move to Los Angeles). The penalties were around $50 million at trial (later settled down to around $20 million)."

Apparently the courts are as corrupt as the politicians...

86
by Dennis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:07pm

Vast majority? Vast majority of populated areas have more than one. It’s only the less-populated areas that have only one. Every place I’ve ever lived has had at least two.

Really? I live in Denver, in the city limits, and we have one cable provider to choose from. When I lived in Chicago (5 years ago), again in the city itself, I had a choice of one cable provider.

I tried searching to see if I can find a reference on how much of the country actually has cable competition but I couldn't find anything. If anyone can find one I'm interested to know what the actual percentage is.

87
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:12pm

Joel, how many baseball teams does Belgium support? How many basketball teams? How many hockey teams? How many lacrosse teams? More to the point, how many teams are in Belgium's first division? There are more than 32 football teams in the US, you know.

Bill James, many years ago, made the same arguments about baseball that you seem to be making about football: there appears to be an artificial cap on the number of talented players in the sport, so if that cap were lifted, the people with MLB-caliber talent who were denied jobs would be able to play, and the sport could then support more teams in more places than it does now.

That may be true. However, there are quite a few former football players in the US who are playing other sports professionally - there are not necessarily 200 NFL-caliber players waiting for the next expansion.

Also, as you can see from some of the existing teams, even if there were more quality players available, it doesn't necessarily mean they'd be signed. If the NFL expanded to 36 teams, in five years, which would those four franchises be more likely to resemble, Detroit or New England? Would the 32 existing franchises likely grow stronger or weaker?

Also, the NFL, like MLB, is where it is largely due to competitive balance (although the balance is arguably greater in the NFL). Interest is greatest across the entire league when, over the course of a few years, every team feels that it has a chance to compete. If you don't have any restraints on player movement, teams at the top would flourish, certainly, but teams at the bottom would eventually disappear, and you can't have a top without a bottom. That's the primary reason behind the draft, revenue sharing, and so on. (Yes, one of the problems with the socialist approach to sports is that it's as difficult to make cheap owners compete as it is to make rich owners compete evenly.)

You mentioned the EPL as an example of a better system, but I'm not sure that it necessarily proves your point. Here's the list of teams who've won a league title since the change to the current format in 1992: Man U, Blackburn Rovers (once), Arsenal, Chelsea. If parity's arrived in the EPL, it doesn't seem as though it's hit the top of the tables.

You mention cities like Wigan and Reading ... but Reading's playing in the EPL for the first time ever, yes? And Wigan's in its second season EPL season ever (although they did finish 10th last season). So maybe it's a little bit early to refer to them as examples of small clubs playing competitively in the top division, and you certainly can't say that they're challenging the top teams yet.

If you look at the current tables, the top three teams are, surprise, Man U, Chelsea, and Arsenal. (There are three other clubs with the same number of points as the Gunners, who are already 10 points back of Chelsea.) Yes, the middle of the pack is very competitive, but if you don't follow one of the top three clubs, then I doubt the EPL is the model you'd promote to other leagues.

88
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:15pm

Re: 86

Interesting point. Can't give more than anecdotal evidence in answer to your question, but here in the Baltimore area most jurisdictions have a cable monopoly. For example, I know that's true in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County. I think it's true in the Maryland suburbs of Washingtoin as well. Off the top of my head, the only county near here that allows two competing cable companies is Anne Arundel County. That means roughly 500,000 people out of nearly 4,500,000 in the part of Maryland comprising metro Baltimore plus the Washington suburbs actually have some semblance of a choice.

89
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:16pm

#82
take a deep breath. relax. i've been an NFL fan since the day i was born. i absolutely love the NFL and my eagles and the super bowl and the playoffs and the rivalries. It's my absolute favorite sport (though I also appreciate soccer). I just think the league itself has gone way too far in the way it operates every team as a branch of the corporate office. And besides, its fun to imagine setting up a league the way YOU want it.

90
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:16pm

Funny you should mention Denver: they did have multiple cable companies before WOW pulled out (though I think they weren't that large). The people I know in Chicago have multiple possible cable providers. State College, a city of less than 50,000, has multiple cable providers, for crying out loud.

91
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:18pm

#84
It's actually my quixotic attempt to get the Providence Steamrollers and Frankford Yellow Jackets back into the NFL. ;)

92
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:23pm

Then again, I will say, I'm not sure most people know if they can get competing cable services. Lots of people around here didn't know that there were multiple cable providers here until I mentioned it to them.

As an example, though, the friends I have in Naperville have three cable companies to choose from - TVMAX, WOW, and Comcast.

93
by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:27pm

. . .and Detroit doesn't. At least didn't when I was there.

Everywhere I've ever lived, if you wanted competitive pricing, you had to choose a dish provider.

94
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:29pm

As was mentioned, DirecTV itself provides competition in most markets. I actually watch some programming on DirecTV (including the Sunday Ticket) and other (basically HD programs) on basic cable. And even though I am able to get the Sunday Ticket from DirecTV and am quite happy with it, I do think the NFL/DirecTV are pushing their luck with that exclusive arrangement.

95
by Dennis (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:30pm

Re 89: WOW was only available in a small portion of Denver, and it wasn't around very long. Qwest is serving a small piece of Highlands Ranch with their TV service and they are trying to get into Denver, but Comcast is fighting it because they want Qwest to have to commit to building out to the entire city.

So yes, some, maybe even a lot of areas have cable competition. But there are a lot that don't, and the existing companies are fighting to keep it that way.

96
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:50pm

38, 82 etc.

I am truly amazed anybody thinks that the European system produces credible compettition at the highest level. Everywhere *else*, yes. Highest level, no. The league with the most money thrown at it is the English Premiership, so let's take a look at the champions thereof since inception in 1992:

1992/3: Manchester United
1993/4: Manchester United
1994/5: Blackburn Rovers
1995/6: Manchester United
1996/7: Manchester United
1997/8: Arsenal
1998/9: Manchester United
1999/2000: Manchester United
2000/1: Manchester United
2001/2: Arsenal
2002/3: Manchester United
2003/4: Arsenal
2004/5: Chelsea (post-Abramovich)
2005/6: Chelsea
2006/7: League ongoing; Manchester United lead by a game from Chelsea.

The same time period in Italy's Serie A:
1992/3 – AC Milan
1993/4 – AC Milan
1994/5 – Juventus
1995/6 – AC Milan
1996/7 – Juventus
1997/8 – Juventus
1998/9 – AC Milan
1999/2000 – Lazio
2000/1 – Roma
2001/2 – Juventus
2002/3 – Juventus
2003/4 – AC Milan

...and Spain's La Liga:

1992/3 Barcelona
1993/4 Barcelona
1994/5 Real Madrid
1995/6 Atlético Madrid
1996/7 Real Madrid
1997/8 Barcelona
1998/9 Barcelona
1999/2000 Deportivo La Coruna
2000/1 Real Madrid
2001/2 Valencia
2002/3 Real Madrid
2003/4 Valencia
2004/5 Barcelona
2005/5 Barcelona

I prefer leagues that more than three teams have a chance of winning. This has not been true about the Premiership throughout its history; and this is why in around 2000 I gave up on association football and switched to the NFL.

97
by Dan R. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:00pm

Don't lose sight of what you want out of the NFL.

While you may not want every business to be treated in this way, you want different things out of the NFL. You want good games and competition. Since it's a small part of the economy and most business aren't spectator sports, imposing restrictions on effinciency of the league and individual teams isn't really your concern. It won't hurt you and you'll get to see the sport you love.

98
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:04pm

Suburb of Indianapolis here. One cable company choice.

99
by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:08pm

The NFL has argued that its exclusive agreement with DirecTV serves public interst by promoting competition in the broader television marketplace. DirecTV and, in turn, their customers have obviously reaped great benefits from the NFL arrangement. But for NFL fans, supply is still artificially withheld far short of demand.

The NFL has always taken a more stringent approach to video rights than the other leagues, e.g. blackouts, Sunday Ticket, NFL Films, YouTube. But as with other DRM schemes, I believe technology advances will ultimately lead the league to cede to the demand for more widely-available game broadcasts. Place-shifting setups like the Slingbox are becoming accessible to novice users. And anyone with rudimentary Googling skills can find rogue sites that stream broadcasts of live games over P2P networks. While the NFL will certainly fight their battles in the courts, the cat and mouse game will continue until the fans get the games they want.

100
by DGL (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:11pm

#86, 87: According to the FCC's 12th annual report on "the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming" (FCC 06-11), "Relatively few consumers have a second wireline alternative, such as an overbuild cable system, as indicated by the small number of subscribers to BSPs" (Broadband Service Providers, or overbuilders).

Overbuilders have roughly 1.5% of the video market, compared to about 69.4% for cable and 27.7% for DBS.

If DBS, available to somewhere between 80% and 90% of TV households, has captured 27.7% of the market, and overbuilders have an equivalent success rate, then they're only available to 4%-5% of TV households.

The other interpretation could be that overbuilders are widely available, but have a crappy offer and therefore a far lower success rate than DBS. I doubt that's the case.

I think, Pat, you've just happened to live in a couple of the few places where overbuilders are available. You're the Neil Rackers of TV customers - seeing an unusually high success rate that needs to be attributed more to a small sample size than a general trend...

101
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:25pm

It's not just me, though. It's almost everyone I know who lives in a moderately-populated area. The only people who I know who don't have a choice between cable providers live out in the sticks.

Bizarre.

And anyone with rudimentary Googling skills can find rogue sites that stream broadcasts of live games over P2P networks.

And thank God for that. I just wish the feed hadn't cut out right before Sheppard's interception on the MNF game. Dear God, that was frustrating.

102
by Derek (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:30pm

I'm just going to say a couple of things.

1) It is very sad that we here in Canada, where in some parts they could careless about the NFL, have better access to NFL games than most Americans do. The NFL network games are on basic cable here. In fact, the Monday, Sunday and Thursday night games are all on the same channel.

2) Re 22 and others, the single bullet theory has been proven, stop watching JFK and accept it. Senator Spectre is one of the good ones IMHO, and should be commended for some of the things hes done.

103
by Donkeys Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:32pm

Funny you should mention Denver: they did have multiple cable companies before WOW pulled out (though I think they weren’t that large). The people I know in Chicago have multiple possible cable providers.

I wasn't going to respond to your original post, but now I must call you out. I live in Denver and lived in Chicago before that (although that was quite a few years ago by now). In both spots, there is/was only one choice of cable provider. I also lived in Houston for some time; again only one cable provider.

In fact, in most cities, cable providers are provided a monopoly by law--known as the cable franchise agreement. Their argument is, and continues to be, that it's only with the power of a monopoly that they can afford to wire an entire city. So in exchange for providing access to all residents within a particular city, cable companies are provided with a monopoly.

Now, if you're saying that you could get tv service through some other means, then, yes, that's probably true. But it's also an example of why it's so gd expensive for someone like Verizon to install their cable alternative in places--because they have to wire every house all over again (which they can do because of their local phone service monopoly).

104
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:39pm

#81 - I don't think NFL Direct TV arrangement would qualify as a tying arrangement since the NFL, to my knowledge, does not have an economic interest in (i.e., own a portion of) Direct TV. In other words, Direct TV struck the deal so that it could build its buisness providing something that others couldn't, just like FOX did with NFC games and Siruis is doing Stern. The NFL did not create Direct TV and essentially "double dip".

105
by Donkeys Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:44pm

And one other thing. The reason that Sunday Ticket is sold only on Direct TV is because the NFL doesn't want to devalue the broadcast rights to their games.

The money paid by the networks dwarfs all other sources of income by the NFL. And the networks are able to pay such large freight, in part, due to the advertising revenues that are possible with such large distribution. And it also keeps the local stations happy, since they can sell local ads that reach tons and tons of eyes.

If the NFL were to all-of-a-sudden circumvent the networks and local stations, the broadcast rights would be much less valuable to them.

I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they've done the math to figure out whether there would be enough people paying $400 per year for Sunday Ticket that it would offset the reduction in fees from the networks.

Remember, the networks pay multiple billions for the rights. If allowing cable companies to offer Sunday ticket reduced the value of a network(s) bids by $1 billion, you'd have to sign up 2.5 million Sunday Ticket subscribers at $400 per in order to break even.

I don't know the numbers, but I'd suspect that 2.5 million more Sunday Ticket subscribers would be unlikely.

106
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:48pm

Denver I knew about because WOW (the other provider here) started in Denver, which I knew because I would've chosen them had I gotten cable, and I read their company history.

Regarding Chicago, the friends I have live near Naperville, which had three available at the time (I think they only have two now).

In fact, in most cities, cable providers are provided a monopoly by law–known as the cable franchise agreement.

There are cities with multiple cable franchise agreements. Naperville is one of them (it's even on their Web site).

Allentown, PA (near where I grew up) is overbuilt as well (RCN and Service Electric).

Actually, I think I know why I'm unusual - apparently Pennsylvania has a ton of small cable providers. Which would explain my biased view.

107
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:54pm

If the NFL were to all-of-a-sudden circumvent the networks and local stations, the broadcast rights would be much less valuable to them.

You... do realize that's the illegal part of it, right? It wouldn't be illegal if the NFL didn't have economic incentive to limit it to only one provider. It's in the link I pointed to above (and here, too).

Yes, amazingly enough, it is financially advantageous for monopolies to exploit their monopolies.

108
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 6:54pm

Donkeys Fan, that's exactly the point of why the NFL is abusing its monopoly status. They are using their status as a monopoly to withold product, thereby artificially inflating the value of that product. It is exactly that kind of tactic that Sherman is designed to prevent.

109
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:02pm

I don't doubt that the NFL has done the math and come up with the result that the exclusive Sunday Ticket deal has the most economic benefit, although I think that's mostly due to the fact that DirecTV is paying a premium for that exclusivity ($700m/year) as opposed to any devaluation of existing broadcast rights. DirecTV has made significant penetration into the cable market anyway, and if you're watching the hometown game on DirecTV, you're watching a local broadcast with local commercials, same as on cable. Sunday Ticket is mainly for the hardcore fan who wants to watch more games or the out-of-town games of his favorite team, which is a revenue supplement more than a revenue substitute.

In any case, regardless of the logic, the issue isn't really about whether this exclusive deal maximizes revenues, but rather whether it's fair.

110
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:05pm

I hope they also attack the NFL's exclusive license to EA Sports, which has shut down all competition for the Madden product. Not long before that game is completely stagnant (some claim it already is) without competition to spur innovation.

Personally, I think this is worse than Sunday Ticket (probably because I'm a software guy, and not a media guy). DirecTV adds no value to an NFL broadcast. The issue of broadcast rights appears to simply be one of who gets a piece of the action. Of course, consumers lose, but that's hardly the concern of the folks arguing.

The exclusive EA license, on the other hand, prevents Sega from challenging EA in the marketplace with a better product. This is even more aggravating because EA is a sweatshop and I'd prefer to not pay them any money, but... consumers lose again.

Some posters are getting choleric about governmental interference (I think that's what they're shouting about) but it is government's job to remove barriers on competition (and thus innovation) that are created solely by corporate greed. The NFL isn't abusing its monopoly to prevent competition to its product, it is abusing its monopoly to allow companies in other industries to be anti-competitive. Whatever Specter's motivation, I'm happy for his initiative.

111
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:07pm

106 & 107 - The practice isn't illegal since the exemption essentially allows them to collude. It isn't like you need Direct TV to watch NFL games. You only need Direct TV to have a choice of NFL games.

112
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:11pm

#110: Yeah. I meant 'would be illegal' without the exemption.

113
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:11pm

109 - So should the government also go after all exlusive rights licenses? Should no company that owns a brand be able to negotiate in their own best interests? Should Dungeons & Dragons, Final Fantasy, Halo etc also be up for grabs without exclusive license? What you are suggesting goes well beyond the NFL and EA.

114
by Frick (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:24pm

Re: 112

No it doesn't because has been mentioned multiple times above, those examples don't have a anti-trust exemption.

Now any ruling would probably also have an effect on DishNetworks exclusive packages and would also effect XM and Sirius if they have exclusive packages. NASCAR's deal with Sirius would not be be effected because NASCAR isn't an exempted monopoly.

115
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:29pm

bsr,

The government shoudlnt' go after all exclusive rights agreements. It should go after exclusive rights agreements when the supplier of the product controls a disproportionately large part of the market--i.e. is a monopoly.

I would have no problem with the exclusive rights agreement between the NFL and DirecTV if there were four other football leagues with the same talent level and similar game rules, competing with the NFL. But there aren't.

116
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:33pm

No, #112 is right, though, the previous suggestion (#109) is too broad: one of the requirements of tying is that the seller (in this case, the NFL, through DirecTV) has sufficient economic power in the marketplace to force the buyer to accept the tied product.

There's no way anyone could claim that the NFL has enough power in the video game marketplace to prevent consumers from buying another football game. It just couldn't be NFL licensed, which isn't a big deal: Blitz: The League exists, after all.

Besides, the antitrust exemption only applies to broadcast rights.

117
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:43pm

> Besides, the antitrust exemption only applies to broadcast rights.

Which means that if the NFL really were in antitrust violation in the video-game market, they could already be sued. And no, likewise I'm not stretching the argument it that far. I'm not even sure about the Sirius deal since I can pay a reasonable fee to listen to the games over the internet.

118
by emcee fleshy (atl/sd) (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:50pm

Give me a break.

Specter is blatantly pandering to residents of northwest-facing apartments.

119
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:50pm

Just the show how crazily pro-business and anti-consumer broadcast laws are (as opposed to other industries), let's consider this same case, but assume that instead of providing football games, the NFL made razor blades.

Suppose there was a collection of razor blade manufacturers all over the country. The better blade makers drive the worse blade makers out of business, until there are only two blade makers left (each one a consortium of smaller, local blade factories). These two consortiums get together and decide to merge, at least in the sense that they will control the distribution of all razor blades made by them (which by now are the only razor blades made in the country). Oh sure, you can always get Canadian razor blades, but they only have three blades, not four, and have the screws in completely the wrong place. And there's some crappy disposable Arena blades, but they're too short and narrow and aren't all that sharp, so neither is really competition. This normally would be illegal collusion, but the new Blade Conglomerate successfully lobbies the government that by controlling distribution, they can improve the overall quality of their product. The government buys the arguemnt and gives them an exemption to antitrust laws, provided that everyone in the country still has access to razor blades.

Now, to protect the local factories that are making razor blades, even if those razor blades are unpopular because better razor blades are being made in the next state, the razor-blad consortium decides to only sell blades made locally in each state. Furthermore, they force all trucking companies that deliver razor blades to sign contracts that says they will not, except in very rare circumstances, ship razor blades to other parts of the country other than where they're made, and get Congress to pass laws that enforce these contracts. A black market in razor blades springs up, but the blade companies get the government to pass laws that make it illegal to rebroadcast...excuse me, transport blades, and aggressively prosecute anyone they catch moving blades around. They also prohibit companies like YouTube...I mean, like Amazon.com and E-bay and Overstock.com from selling (or even giving away) blades outside of the local areas, even innocuous free sample blades.

Then they decide they can make some more money by giving people a choice of blades, because, let's face it, the blades made in Arizona and Michigan and the California Bay Area really really suck (the ones in Oakland don't even have sharp parts, while the ones in Detroit have a whole bunch of top of the line blades, but absolutely no structure to hold the hole thing together) while New England and Indianapolis make really nifty blades that don't gash your face open and feel really nice to shave with. And maybe there are a bunch of poeple living in places that grew up somewhere else and really liked the blades there that they can't get in their new locale. So the Blade Conglomerate decides to offer a deluxe selection package, with blades from all over the country, so you can shave with any type of blade you want.

But some new startup drug store has the nifty idea to pay the Blade Conglomerate a huge amount of money so that they'll only make this package available to the new drug store. This drug store, in turn, will only sell to about 2/3 of the consumers in the country, and will require that people pay a big fee to even shop at the store, and sign a contract that prohibits them from every going to Wal-mart, or Oscoe, or Walgreens, or any other drug store. The other drug stores don't mind all that much, because a lot of people won't or can't join this new drug store, and hence the other drug stores in Arizona or Oakland can continue to overcharge for crappy Oakland or Arizona-made blades that consumers have no other choice but to buy.

At this point, don't you think Congress would and should step in and say "hey, wait a minute--this isn't what we had in mind when we said you have to make razor blades available to everyone!".

120
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:51pm

Sorry about the long post,

Slow day at work.

121
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 7:54pm

#116: Actually, I forgot about that. But that makes it worse, because the NFL now is offering the services directly so they have severe economic incentive not to offer Sirius the package at a reasonable rate - because it'll pull money from FieldPass.

When your only choices are a provider forced into an exclusivity contract with the league (if it is an exclusivity contract, and it just isn't that XM has no interest in it) and the league itself, uh, yeah, that doesn't help.

122
by Hey hey hey (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 8:03pm

The senator clearly has too much free time. Sports on TV? (Sigh).

123
by TBW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 8:48pm

So, it's ok for Comcast to refuse to allow DirecTV to carry their Philadelphia Comcast SportsNet, but it's not ok for the NFL to only sell the Sunday Ticker to DirectTV. That's basically what is being argued underneath the veneer of Specter doing it "for the fans". What a load of crap. This is all about cable companies missing out on a revenue stream. What they lost fair and square in a bidding war they now want Uncle Sam to give them.

By the way, the notion that NFL teams should have to land their own TV contracts, etc. and compete against each other for air time is ludicrous. They are franchises. I don't expect the Feds to step in and force the two McDonald's near me to compete against each other just so I can get my double cheeseburger for $0.50 instead of a buck.

124
by Tighthead (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 8:53pm

102 - In some ways sad, but we owe it to the American fans to watch those games in a show of solidarity.

125
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 8:55pm

I don't have a strong opinion on this particular instance of antitrust application, but in general, the beneficial effects of antitrust enforcement that has accrued to consumers, and the harmful effects that monopolies have had on consumers, have often times been wildly overestimated, from pretty early on, like the breakup of Standard Oil. The legal marathon which was the government prosecution of IBM for antitrust violations mostly benefitted the lawyers, and in an ironic twist, gave rise to the Microsoft monopoly.

It really takes a lot of study to get your arms around the monopoly economics and antitrust law. I ain't well versed enough to render really strong opinions on this particular aspect of it , and if I'm going to argue from an ignorant postion, I'll stick to the DVOA thread.

126
by Jason Mulgrew aka The Mul Dawg aka J-Rocka (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 9:07pm

He should go to hell. Screw him.

127
by Marko (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 9:40pm

On another legal front, Time Warner Cable has sued DirecTV in federal court in New York, accsusing DirecTV of deceptive trade practices. In the lawsuit, Time Warner Cable "claims DirecTV lied about the accessibility of NFL broadcasts [on the NFL Network] in an effort to pry away customers from Time Warner Cable." Click on my name for a link to a story on this.

128
by Theo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 9:47pm

So all of you want to see Washington, instead of the Colts.

I don't get it.
Why don't the networks just pay the whole bunch, then THEY decide who to show. So you won't see any punt fests insted of TEN vs NY

129
by Random Bengals Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 10:14pm

Call me a communist parasite, but, I don't think it'd hurt to pressure the NFL into cleaning up some of its shadier practices. Obviously, there are many more pressing issues to deal with, but unfairness is unfairness, regardless of the level it's at. And considering how most stadiums are taxpayer-funded, I'd say the government should get a little leeway in dealing with the NFL, anyway.

130
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 10:41pm

Frankly, I find the concept of "fairness" to be of little value, given how nebulous it is, due to it's quality being nearly entirely dependent on the vantage point of the observer.

131
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 12:24am

That’s basically what is being argued

Well, except for the fact that the NFL is a monopoly protected from antitrust violations by an exemption that was originally given for the benefit of the consumer, and may be abusing said exemption.

But yeah, basically. Except for all the shady semi-illegal (without an exemption they're abusing, that is) tactics, that's basically what it is.

132
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 12:26am

#127:

Ooh, good point. Man. Are we sure some of the NFL owners don't have stock in DirecTV? Because man, this just looks more and more like someone said "hey, now that we've got this antitrust exemption..."

133
by Joe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 1:14am

Anyone else waiting for that "corporations are people too" guy to respond to the "Ayn Rand hero" blast?

134
by TOMMY TUMULTOUS (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 1:37am

I cannot stand this fuckin' politician bullship.

135
by GlennW (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 1:51am

"Anyone else waiting for that “corporations are people too� guy to respond to the “Ayn Rand hero� blast?"

I sure was...

136
by Ronnie (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 2:03am

Ayn Rand is a jerk.

137
by MdM (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 2:11am

Calling people whiners and commies...the final refuge of the scoundrel.

138
by mike (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 3:00am

Ahh...the irony. I've read multiple posts of people talking about DirectTV having exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket, giving those who have cable no oppurtunity to view them. Isn't that what my cable company is doing to me during Thursday night games???

139
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 3:29am

... where is our "Football Outsiders sit down with Jaws" article!

I don't really care what the NFL does, and I trust them to do what's right for business... and the world didn't end when DirectTV got exclusive rights, which has been going on for how long?

I do worry that our government is somewhat incompetent and not as altruistic as we were taught in Civics class. I'd prefer if they stayed out of meddling in sports leagues...although when they try to take on the real US citizens deal with they have been known to really bugger things up.

140
by Jerry (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 7:16am

Don't forget that it took Congressional pressure in the '70s for the NFL to end the blackout of home games in a 75-mile radius.

141
by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 9:02am

It's good to know that during a time of war, as our environment is rapidly deteriorating, as our national debt and deficeit are skyrocketing and our standing in the world is cratering, our nation's Congress-monkies are making sure we can watch football.

142
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 11:48am

Suburb of Philly here. One cable choice: Comcast. I do not live in the sticks, unless one considers Delaware County, which is densely populated, the sticks.

I know there are other providers within the city itself, but for those of us outside of the city, we have very little choice except to go with Comcast. I see that Verizon is starting their own cable service, but I don't think it's available yet in my area.

143
by Chris M (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 3:53pm

Coming from someone who just finished antitrust law...

I'm not quite sure that Sunday Ticket is an antitrust violation. The issue would be that it is an exclusive dealing contract - the only one who can get it is DirecTV. However, in order for this to be illegal, it has to "foreclose a substantial share of the market." But what is the market here? If it's the market for showing NFL games, then this is nowhere near a substantial share, because most people still watch on Fox/CBS/NBC/ESPN. If, on the other hand, the market is Pay-Per-View football, then it's the creation of a monopoly. I think this one would be a close call - the standard is whether the two products are substitutes. Obviously, the two are both NFL football, but the significant difference in choice that it gives might make it different.

Interesting note, though - if they stripped the antitrust exemption, some team that wanted a national TV contract would have very good precedent for a suit. The NCAA was sued by Oklahoma and Georgia in the 80s for a plan that only allowed teams to appear on national TV six times a year, and they won. (I'm pretty sure this is why the TV situation in college football is so fragmented and weird).

144
by The Other Vlad (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 4:39pm

Arlen Specter was the guy who came up with the Single Bullet Theory (AKA Magic Bullet Theory) in the Kennedy assassination.

Not really relevant; just wanted to throw that out there.

145
by Travis (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 4:59pm

The NCAA was sued by Oklahoma and Georgia in the 80s for a plan that only allowed teams to appear on national TV six times a year, and they won.

Not six times a year, worse - six times every two years, only four nationally.

FWIW, the Judiciary Committee hearing was about more than Sunday Ticket - the complete title was "Vertically ingegrated Sports Programming: Are Cable Companies Excluding Competiton?" For those interested, the submitted testimonies of the various witnesses to Specter's hearing can be found here. Former and current customers, as well as Jet, Ranger, and Knick fans won't be surprised that Cablevision (the only cable company worse than Comcast, IMO), ignored its subpoena.

146
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 9:28pm

FO: future reference, when you post stuff like this, you should go ahead and spot the following posts just to get them out of the way:

"Congress should have other priorities!"

and

"Altering the presently existing economic regulations has the taint of Bolshevism!"

147
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 10:01pm

I was responsible for the Ayn Rand reference. Sorry for getting too far off the real subject, which after all, is football.

Wasn't trying to incite a flame war. Just wanted to make what I thought was an undisputed point, namely, that the NFL has an extremely cozy relationship with governments at all levels in the U.S. and is far from any libertarian ideal of free enterprise.

148
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 10:09pm

Re: 140

Don’t forget that it took Congressional pressure in the ’70s for the NFL to end the blackout of home games in a 75-mile radius.

That's an excellent point, thanks for the reminder. In the late 70's some friends of mine would drive from Baltimore County up to someplace in southern New Jersey near Philly just to go to a bar and watch the Colts home games that were blacked out in Baltimore. Talk about a perverse incentive for drunk driving...

149
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Sun, 12/10/2006 - 12:00pm

All true, but still, an NFL owner doesn’t have to sweat much if he doesn’t win. The incentive may indeed be there to try, but the market forces which would simply drive out sustained incompetence don’t exist. Hence, Bidwell, Ford and the like live on.

"Driving out incompetence" is another word for teams moving/folding. So here's a simple question: are you willing to see your favorite team go under in order to see increased competitiveness?

Heck, I don't even see the objection. The NFL is the most competitive sports league on the planet. You say "Bidwell, Ford, and the like" yet the Cardinals and the Lions are really the only two sad-sack teams in the league. The Buccaneers and Patriots won a Super Bowl recently. Even the Bengals and Saints have hope. Two non-competitive teams out of thirty is a _great_ percentage. You can't do better than that, unless you limit contracts to one year and have a new draft of all players every year.

150
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Sun, 12/10/2006 - 12:13pm

The New York Yankees are not about to share “their� TV revenue with the Kansas City Royals.

Well, the MLB revenue-sharing system already equalized the playing field somewhat.

151
by cd6 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/10/2006 - 4:09pm

I'm in downtown Seattle. Multiple providers are available in the area (Comcast, Millenium Digital Media, Qwest) BUT most of the apartment buildings are exclusive to a provider. Thus, I have MDM even though I'd prefer Comcast (more channels for same cost, including NFL Network, which I can't get now).

Moral of the story: even if multiple providers service an area, this does not necessarily mean that multiple provider options are available to each and every customer.

152
by GlennW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 12:14am

"So here’s a simple question: are you willing to see your favorite team go under in order to see increased competitiveness?"

No. In fact, I explicitly followed up that statement with the comment of: "still, given the consequences, I don’t like the alternative", and basically made the same commentary you did. Nonetheless, I'm not going to pretend that the NFL is perfectly self-regulating regarding competition. There are teams which have performed well below any normal baseline even over the long haul and which have been kept afloat by the league's structure.

153
by Mikey Benny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 1:29am

Re: 105, I must call you out.

[[And one other thing. The reason that Sunday Ticket is sold only on Direct TV is because the NFL doesn’t want to devalue the broadcast rights to their games.]]

How would that devalue ANYTHING? The Sunday Ticket games are still broadcast by CBS and Fox, with CBS & Fox's own commercials showing. There is no logical reason for the NFL to grant an exclusive license, except for the fact that DTV is paying nine figures for the exclusive rights. It is nothing more than a marketing tool for DTV to attract NFL fans as customers -- we know if we want Ticket, we can't go Comcast, Dish Network, etc; we MUST become customers of DTV. Kinda fishy no matter how you look at it.

154
by fromanchu (not verified) :: Mon, 12/11/2006 - 11:59am

119
you haven't described a situation where congresss needs to get involved. you've described a situation where congress needs to get uninvolved. it is only because of the government regulations that this awful monopoly exists. if congress wanted to fix a situation like that, they only need to stop granting the monopoly. unfortunately, congress will probably see it your way and pass a regulation to fix the disaster caused by their earlier regulation. i wonder what they will do when this one doesn't do what they intend it to.