Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Oct 2007

TMQ: Ticket, Please!

TMQ asks if the NFL's stances over Sunday Ticket and the NFL network might not be a teensy bit contradictory.

He also continues to comment on the ongoing New England sportsmanship debate. In accordance with the longstanding FO policy discouraging discussions which dominate comment threads to the exclusion of all other talk -- especially when few people have entirely rational opinions on the matter -- we are asking readers not to discuss anything pertaining to "running up the score" in the comments. Thank you.

Posted by: Stuart Fraser on 31 Oct 2007

96 comments, Last at 05 Nov 2007, 5:03pm by JohnR

Comments

1
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:48am

Ah good, this is finally up so I can take issue with this quote:

Sour Play of the Week: Philadelphia led 17-10 and kicked off to start the second half. Rookie Adrian Peterson fielded the ball at the goal line, then stepped out of bounds at his 1 instead of stepping back into the end zone for a touchback.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but if he steps back into the EZ after fielding the kick at his 1, is that not a safety instead of a touchback? We know that he meant to step out at the 1, then field the kick so it would be at the 40 (which Easterbrook doesn't mention), but his alternative solution would have been even worse!

2
by pbmax (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:48am

Can we talk about why an apology was needed for characterizing someone as smirking, but one isn't needed for castigating someone as Beelzebub?

3
by JFP (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:48am

That was very considerate of Easterbrook to apologize to Brady. Of course a real man would have apologized at the beginning of his column and not buried it at the end. Is that rational?

4
by pr9000 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:52am

Sorry, but that's how journalism works. Look for corrections in the New York Times, and unless you love to look at the most unviewed page in the paper -- A2 -- you'll miss them.

Journalists of all stripes can dish it out on the front page, but can only take it back where people won't actually read it.

I'm not ripping Easterbrook, btw.

5
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:55am

Easterbrook's stuff on the TV negotiations is interesting, he's done well this week.

6
by pbmax (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:56am

And on the football side of the equation, his call of Favre's pass in OT to Jennings a 'heave ho' was entirely too dismissive.

Jennings had gotten outside position on press (and single safety) coverage versus Bly and was ahead by half a step with room to maneuver against the sideline when the bal was thrown.

Against a cornerback like Bly, that is the very definition of open. It was also a very good pass on a route and throw that is not his best.

7
by Sam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:57am

"Didn't This Happen in 1995? On Sunday, Aaron Glenn intercepted a Jeff Garcia pass."

No, because Jeff Garcia wasn't even in the NFL (let alone a starter) in 1995.

8
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 11:59am

The Direct TV stuff is pretty good, as is the Football content. And this weeks cheerleader is smokin' hot.

I'm
A: Suprised TMQ has a link this week in light of recent events.

B: Wondering if a rash of controversial posts to this thread caused the WordPress error I've been looking at for the past half-an-hour.

9
by RickD (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:04pm

re:1
Last I heard, if the player has established possession in the play of field, he cannot simply choose to run backwards into the end zone in hope of getting a touchback.
Of course, presumably what Easterbrook is saying that, if Peterson fielded the ball "at the goal line", he could have easily fielded it in the endzone for a touchback.

10
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:06pm

#7. Hello, hyperbole.

This week's TMQ is worth it just for the picture of that eagle's cheerleader.

11
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:13pm

I suspect that the Eagles' cheerleader is the primary reason why Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback got an FO link this week :)

12
by UK-Phil (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:18pm

After the last couple of weeks I can't tell if this bit is supposed to be satirical or straight-up

Imagine if the Brits were running American football: They'd eliminate the violence and double the meeting times! NFL, don't get in the habit of playing in London. Fifty years from now, football will have become like cricket or soccer: several minutes between plays, red cards for contact, tea served during timeouts.

I take it he hasn't watched a game of rugby lately. Violence-wise it makes the NFL look like 'Dancing With The Stars' (to use the US name). It is normal for forwards to have facial deformities as a result of playing the game (and probably mental if you ask me!), and players regularly have to go off the field for in-game stitches to be applied to staunch excessive blood flow before coming back on again. Add to that the fact that even on a commercial station you get no interruptions for a whole half (about 45 minutes) and I am forced to draw the conclusion that Greg knows not of what he speaks.

Even cricket, which does have breaks between balls (just like US football and baseball in fact) doesn't stop for the TV station to take a timeout. If they want to show a commercial then they have to get one in pretty quick whenever there is a minor interruption and get back dead quick.

Sorry for the rant, but this week I have been subjected in various ways to US media ignorance about what actually goes on over this side of the ocean. GE just pushed me over the edge!! Even at Wembley we were subjected to some stupid video segments where they asked a bunch of disinterested Giants and Dolphins what various 'English' phrases like 'Dog and Bone' meant. Because of course, we are all Cock-a-neys at heart over here. Yeuuuuuugghhh!!!!!

13
by Andrew (A.B.) (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:19pm

Hey, some actual journalism from Easterbrook. What a concept!

14
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:21pm

It's never very nice to watch various large corporations and business entities work congressmen like cheap dates, all in an effort to get over on each other. I like Directv's product, and I am skeptical of the notion of a single sports league as a monopolist, given I think any sports league is actually competing for the eyeballs that can choose to watch several hundred other channels, but I can certainly understand the frustration of people who can't get Directv. I'm no communications expert, but perhaps the easiest solution is for Directv to also buy the rights to internet video streaming of games, which they can price the same as the Sunday ticket.

15
by Sam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:22pm

Could be hyperbole, but everybody seems to think that Garcia has been in the NFL forever. He could have said "1999" and that would have been more plausible because at least Garcia was in the league, but SF did not play the Jets that year. Glenn did face Garcia in 2001 but did not have an interception in that game. They did not play in the same game as each other again until 2006, but Glenn had no tackles and no interceptions in that game.

Intended as hyberbole, but I mean the two guys have only ever faced each other in THREE GAMES and Garcia while fairly old for an NFL vet has not bee in the NFL anywhere near the time that Glenn has.

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:24pm

Yeah, UK-Phil, pompous provincialism is never very attractive to see, either..

17
by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:30pm

How can you host "Monday Night Football" two days before Halloween and not have your cheerleaders in Halloween costumes? How come they just don't come out naked and perform sexual acts on each other? Does any other grown man spend that much column space to the cheerleaders? Dude relax.

18
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:35pm

Re: #16

Well, if the XFL ever made a comeback...

19
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:42pm

What sort of fantasy world does Easterbrook live in? Is he in the pay of Comcast or Time-Warner?

"or can pull in the signal only after expensive special installations" - Expensive compared to what? Paying $75 per month to Time-Warner? Buying a TV for $1500?

"The cable carriers wanted games sold individually, pay-per-view." - What sort of a horrible idea is this? $20 a week to watch a football game, more to watch two? How much if your TIVO is taping 4 game per week?

"The cable carriers compete to attach lines to your house" - where does that happen? Cable carriers are usually horrible unresponsive monopolies.

"The NFL wants to charge $7 to $9 per household per year for the NFL Network on basic, a fee the carriers strongly resist." - While they are strongly resisting, local broadcasters are cutting deals with the NFLN to make money. For example, PHL17 in Philadelphia now carries NFL Total Access every Saturday.

"NFL wants to charge $7 to $9 per household per year for the NFL Network on basic ... NBA TV about $4" - So the real dispute is over the equivalent of $0.33 per month extra on the cable bill, because I'd have to assume the cCable companies are willing to taccept NFLN at $4 per month like NBATV.

"carriers want the NFL Network exiled to a premium sports tier so they will meet less resistance passing the price along to consumers" - Everything I read in this article is about cable carriers wanting to dictate terms to the NFL. And then they are shocked they don't get a shot at offering other NFL products.

"Otherwise, lack of diligence in finding a way to offer true universal access to Sunday Ticket is a major failing of the league." - From what Easterbrook writes above, its sounds like the cable companies want to offer pay-per-view games and not Sunday-Ticket.

"Sure -- all the people who want it at $250 a year, plus bundled charges, plus the hassle of installing and maintaining a satellite dish." - From this I take it Easterbrook has never been a satellite TV customer. There are no hassles of installing and maintaining a dish. DirectTV does the installation for you, and the dish is maintenance free. As to bundled charges, I have no idea what he is referring to. The direct cost of DirectTV is lower than comparable cable packages.

"If Sunday Ticket were $50 a year and came hassle-free through cable" - Exactly what have the cable companies done to show they want to charge such a low rate for this product? The $250 rate from DirectTV is their market price to recoup their payments to the NFL and make a profit.

"demanding public access to the NFL Network while restricting public access to Sunday Ticket." - The NFL offered Sunday Ticket to the cable companies, and they rejected the terms and demanded to offer a different package on different terms. Its not the NFL refusing to let cable have Sunday Ticket.

20
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:45pm

Easterbrook:
[I]t was especially coarse that Belichick sought to humiliate Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, a mild-mannered, dignified man who always treats others respectfully.

Dr. Z (click my name for link):
Ten years later I met Glanville at a party at the league meetings in March. He didn't remember me. I asked him, casually, about Gibbs throwing the out and up, leading 42-17. Rage once again, only this time it wasn't directed at me.

"That son of a bitch," he said. "I'll never forget it. Someday I'll get even."

21
by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:46pm

I'm tired of his ranting about the Sunday Ticket. There is no divine right to watch the football game of your choice. The NFL is a private organization and has the right to sell its product however it chooses.

As for his argument about taxpayer funded stadiums, the taxpayers in Denver get to watch the games at Invesco Field every week. The taxpayers in Seattle get to watch the games at Qwest field every week and so on. The people of New York did not pay for the stadium in Denver so using Easterbrook's logic, there is no reason they should have a right to watch the games in Denver.

22
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:48pm

johonny, you ever the feeling that Easterbrook has about 500 bucks worth of one dollar bills stuffed in a sock somewhere, to be employed at various "gentleman's clubs" when he is traveling?

23
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:55pm

Will - the mental image of GE "makin' it rain" PacMan style is one of the funniest I've had in a while. Thanks!

24
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:56pm

Re 18, I agree with your basic point, but I strongly disagree with this:

"There are no hassles of installing and maintaining a dish. DirectTV does the installation for you."

When I made my appointment to have my dish installed, DirecTV told me the guy would come between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. When 1 p.m. rolled around and he hadn't shown up, I called and they told me the guy would be there between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. When 5 p.m. rolled around and he hadn't shown up, I called and they told me the guy was running late but would be there soon. By 6 p.m. I called and the line just kept ringing and ringing. No one ever came.

So I called the next day and rescheduled. When the guy finally came, a week later, he told me that because of the type of roof I have, I would have to buy a $75 "sled mount" for the dish to sit on -- and that he didn't have a "sled mount" in his truck so he'd have to come back another time.

Honestly, I don't even want to finish the story because I can already feel my blood pressure rising. Suffice to say, I finally got DirecTV and absolutely love Sunday Ticket, but I must strongly disagree with anyone who says "There are no hassles of installing."

25
by Mike B in VA (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:58pm

#11 -

And what a good reason it is, I might add.

26
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 12:58pm

Re #14
With DirecTV's Superfan package, you can also stream games online. This isn't well-known or well-advertised, and I don't believe it's available if you don't have existing DirecTV service, but it is out there.

The reason it's not available separately, of course, is that the $249 or whatever I paid for Sunday Ticket, plus the additional $99 for SuperFan (which I didn't get), isn't actually what DirecTV is charging for Sunday Ticket. DirecTV is making you pay their monthly fee-which is more than Dish Network, which provides the best basis for comparison, charges for a very similar service. When you add in the technical challenges of providing potentially very many people with what they would want to be a high quality broadcast, a price of $500-600 a year looks much more realistic than the $348 for DirecTV subscribers. And, as the recent iPhone rebate shows, charging people different prices for the same thing with what they see as only a very minor difference between the situations can be bad PR.

27
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:00pm

Re: #18

Where I live you have the choice of Comcast, RCN, and Verizon FiOS for cable TV providers.

28
by Matt (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:03pm

12#. Couldn't agree more. The nadir came during the Sky Sports/Fox link when Howie Long helpfully informed Shaun Gayle, a Superbowl winner with the Bears, that the NFL team with the worst record got first pick in the draft. Unbelievable.

29
by lagfish (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:04pm

How does he get to see the cheerleaders anyway? I barely ever see them on the game broadcasts.

30
by pr9000 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:07pm

And I'm sorry, but DirecTV customer service blows goats. I left DTV for Dish for precisely that reason.

31
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:09pm

Man....Easterbrook rollin' with Pacman....that's a sitcom pilot! On HBO, of course....

32
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:12pm

The only reason I have Directv is for the Sunday Ticket. I think I'm the guy they had in mind when they cut the check to the NFL.

33
by daddymag (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:17pm

Point #1. The Patriots are running it up.

Point #2. Gregg Easterbrook has made half this column's shelf life on making fun of coaches who punt rather than go for it.

So in this column, in the very next paragraphs after cautioning the Patriots in case an injury happens while they are refusing to take their foot of the gas pedal; he attacks Marvin Lewis and Jon Gruden for not being more aggressive.

34
by flounder (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:18pm

Re: 20 I'm not sure if he's seriously arguing that there is some divine right. Maybe he is, but I maintain 50% of what he rights is not supposed to be taken seriously (although I know many people on this board do not share that opinion). The NFL clearly is talking out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to Sunday Ticket and the NFL network. At any rate I think the compelling argument is that the NFL going exclusively with DirecTV is a stupid business decision. If you could get Sunday Ticket from any cable carrier for, let's say, $200 with the option of buying just your favorite team's games for $75 if that's all you wanted, I think the NFL would make a LOT more money.

35
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:26pm

Andrew, are you in DirecTV's pocket? I figure it's only fair to ask since you started off that diatribe asking the same of Easterbrook.

The expensive installation he's talking about is the in reference to people who don't have a clear view of the SW sky and therefore need a special installation (like the guy Easterbrook mentions that had what amounts to a flagpole build in his backyard). When that's compared to the free installation of cable, I don't see how calling it "expensive" is so out of line.

I agree that PPV is a horrible idea, but the thought of them charging $20 per game is patently ridiculous.

An over-the-air station picking up a single NFLN program is a tiny bit different than a cable company running NFLN 24 hours a day on their basic programming tier. And considering that the NFLN is already offered on a cheaper package than NBATV, the charge to the consumer would be much more than $0.33.

That $50/yr rate was just a hypothetical based on the rest of the paragraph you apparently only skimmed. If DirecTV charges $250/yr to 1.6 million customers, they bring in $0.4B which just barely offsets their cost. If the audience grew to 25 million, they could charge just $50/yr and make $1.25B.

And you're correct, it was the cable companies choice not to agree with the NFL's terms for Sunday Ticket. But you're completely missing the point. The point is that the NFL trying to go through congress to force the cable companies to add NFLN to their basic programming tier on the grounds that it's product is popular enough to demand such treatment while simultaneously making Sunday Ticket exclusively available on a service that many people cannot receive is blatant and almost comical hypocrisy.

36
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:27pm

Re #33
I think you underestimate the amount of money DirecTV is paying the NFL. I'm also pretty sure that Easterbrook's numbers for how much DirecTV is paying the NFL for Sunday Ticket is wrong-it's more like $750-800 million per year, not $400 million. See Mark Yost's Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps. In fact, according to Yost's table, it's more than either Fox or CBS is paying for the rights to broadcast about 26 regular season games plus the playoffs (and the preseason) to every single local market in the country. See also my #25 above for the "real" cost of Sunday Ticket, which sure as heck ain't $250.

37
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:35pm

I accuse TMQ of running up the word count. It's not fair to slower-typing journalists who just can't keep up. I understand he's also stingier than John Elway with the Halloween candy!

That aside, this was one of his more enjoyable columns, for the reasons most of you cited above: DTV history, the Eagle cheerleader.

38
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:47pm

Part of the problem with DirecTV for me is that, aside from Sunday Ticket, I really don't want DirecTV. They cost more than Dish does, they offer far worse picture quality (it's well known that DirecTV takes your nice 1920x1080 HDTV signal and rescales it down to 1280x1024 then adds additional compression to it), and their DVR boxes aren't as nice as my other choices (Dish's box or a TiVo if I stay on cable). I almost got Dish this year (however, bad angle for the Dish, and it would have caused a legal fight with my HOA that I would have won, but would have been a hassle), but I'd like to say that, to me, Sunday Ticket almost allows DirecTV to be worse in many other areas of business just because all of us football junkies will keep going back to them due to Sunday Ticket.

39
by RickD (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:52pm

For more cheerleaders and less Easterbrook, you can click on my name.

(Sorry, I'm just a bit tired of Easterbrook getting credit for doing what is the simplest task of any Internet user: finding pictures of women.)

40
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:53pm

Not just to harp on GE, but because it's indicative of the quality of his work, that $30-35 fee for the ESPN channels is for the WWL alone, and doesn't include ESPN2, ESPN Classic, and ESPNews. The latter two are relatively cheap, I believe, but I remember reading somewhere that ESPN2 was among the 10 most expensive channels to cable companies. See here, here, and here, and note all links are from 2003.

41
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:56pm

Re: 39

There are picture of womens on the interweb?!? Why the hell have I been waisting all my time with the sausage fest here at FO?

42
by Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 1:56pm

I clicked the link just for the cheerleader. Hachi machi!

43
by Joe (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:05pm

The funny part is TMQ really proved himself wrong. For years he's been complaining about Sunday Ticket being exclusive to DTV but by laying out how it got there he's clearly showed that the reason it's exclusive to DTV is because the cable companies wanted a bad arrangement (bad for the NFL and the fans, PPV is a terrible idea) and the networks were worried they'd lose eyeballs to local commercials. All these years he's been blaming the NFL, even here in this column, and he just killed his own argument.

Of course I never thought the Sunday Ticket thing was that cool. With the way the NFL schedule works all you're getting is the ability to pick your game for 2 of the standard 4 time slots instead of leaving it up to the networks. That just doesn't strike me as $250 worth of cool, maybe $100 worth of cool. It's not like the other sports with games going on every night you probably can't watch without their package, those are worth the money if you're a big fan.

44
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:15pm

Re: 43

I agree with you that there's no way I'd spend $250 for Sunday Ticket. But that's because I'm a fan of the local team and I don't have a DVR (or the time required to take advantage of one). If either or both of those conditions were reversed, I think my position would probably change though.

45
by Joe (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:24pm

I have a DVR and I despise the local team, luckily they're in the NFC and I'm an AFC guy, and I still don't see that much of an advantage. I suppose I could flip between two games with the DVR, which I have done with the network broadcasts. I can't really see recording a game for later, NFL Football Sunday is already a 12 hour day, I gotta sleep sometime... although I do have enough vacation time stored up I could take off every Monday of the season... hmmm.

46
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:42pm

I can barely stand to watch a game in real time anymore. I can watch at least three games on a DVR in the time it takes to watch a single game in real time. I get a lot of work done on Sunday afternoon, then about 7 I can start watching football, and depending on the day's schedule and other demands, watch 1-4 games before 11 p.m.

47
by Sam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 2:45pm

21:

There's no divine right to watch any football game you choose. Easterbrook isn't claiming that, I don't think. But it is a little disingenuous for the NFL to demand cable companies offer everybody access to NFLN when it was perfectly fine to have an exclusive deal with DTV.

48
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:27pm

DirecTV has a five-year contract with the NFL for Sunday Ticket; it pays the NFL $3.5B over the five years, or $700M/year, for exclusive rights to ST. It is clearly a loss-leader used for customer acquisition and retention; given that DTV has less than 20% of the Multichannel Video Program Distribution (MVPD) market, if ST were available on cable, you could expect that 60%-80% of those customers would bolt. At ARPU of $76/month, that would cost DTV anywhere from $850M-$1150M per year for annual subscription fees in addition to the $240M-$320M in lost ST revenue.

So DTV is willing to pay a big lump sum to the NFL for an exclusive deal to sell ST. If the deal isn't exclusive, that incentive isn't there - for DTV or anyone else. It comes down to what fees operators are willing to pay based on what they think they can recoup, and what fees the NFL feels it needs to charge to match the $700M/year that DTV offered it.

Doing some back of the envelope math, let's say that the NFL was willing to sell ST to all the cable companies in a way that got it the same $700M in annual revenue as it's getting from DTV. Cable companies make about 40% operating margin, so they'd have to charge their customers a collective $1167M each year for ST to not have their profits go down by offering ST. To do that at the current $250/year price level, they'd have to sign up 4.67M subscribers to ST. Would ST subscribers triple if it was at the same price, but available on cable, not just DTV? Not sure, but it sounds like a stretch to me.

Alternately, if ST is price-elastic, then cable companies could sell it for $125/year, if they could get 9.3M subscribers collectively. That's about 10% of all households in the US that subscribe to some sort of "pay TV" service. Are 10% of all the households in the US big enough fans of out-of-market football to pay $125/year for ST? I don't know, but I do know that (a) if I were in charge of program licensing for the NFL, I'd be charging Comcast, TWC, and the other operators a lump sum license fee for ST and letting them bear the risk on take rate, and (b) if I were in charge of program acquisition at Comcast, there's no way I'd pay the NFL a $300M/year lump sum license fee and hope I could sign up 2M of my 15M digital cable subs for Sunday Ticket at $250/year, or 4M at $125/year.

49
by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:28pm

Re 34: The issue for the NFL isn't how much revenue there would be from consumers if the ticket was more widely available, it's how much revenue there would be from the cable and satellite providers. As #36 pointed out, DirecTV is paying a boatload of money to have the exclusive on it. If the ticket was available to all providers, the total revenue to the NFL would drop because they would lose the premium DTV pays for exclusivity.

Re 38: Of course, DTV has many millions of subscribers who don't get the ticket, so the picture quality issues don't seem to be hurting them a whole lot.

50
by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:31pm

Re 47: I agree the NFL is being totally unreasonable about the NFL Network, but that's a totally separate issue.

51
by Baraka (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:33pm

#41 - Your post has just reminded me that (after months of thinking that you were just an unusually obscene person) Americans have no idea of what Wanker means.

52
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:34pm

Re: 48

Those numbers would be more reasonable if there were only 1 national cable company. You'd have to divide each of those numbers by the particular cable company's market share to figure out how many subscribers they'd need and how much they'd have to give the NFL to equal what they're getting from DirecTV. I think.

53
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:39pm

Re: 51

Most of us know what it means. Personally, I only took it as my handle because back in high school physics class the teacher split us into groups and since we named our own group we decided that it'd be hilarious to have him say "team wanker" on a daily basis. It was the most vulgar non-vulgar word we could think of (if that makes any sense).

54
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:42pm

Re: 48

If I understood Eaterbrook correctly (and it's very possible I didn't), he was saying that to appease their network partners (primarily FOX and CBS) the NFL has agreed to a cap on ST subscriptions. I think it's also implied they are already essentially at the cap (1.6 million). So unless they ae willing to renegotiate with the networks, I'm not sure they could expand ST significantly without creating a problem with FOX and CBS.

55
by Jason H (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:47pm

I am a DirecTV customer who has had ST since '98, the year I graduated from college and got my first full-time job.

I will never consider moving to cable until they get some rights to ST. Though none of the options Easterbook presents were as good as ST is today.

That said I take issue with his POV that satellite is more of a hassle than cable when he mentions the cost of maintaining a satellite and the rain outages.

If you have good satellite reception, rain outages only occur during very heavy downpours. Plus I know as soon as it stops raining that the signal will come back. Now I also have cable internet, when I have an outage there, it can be days before it comes back and I have no estimate for when it will return. The total time I've lost each service in a given year is probably similar but also somewhat on DTVs favor.

And as for maintaining a satellite, I'd like to know what he's alluding to. I moved in to my current home in '02 and just got a new HD dish 2 months ago. There's been no maintenance of the dish in 5 years.

Now are the NFL and cable companies being greedy bastards in all this? Sure. but how does that make cable more appealing than DTV.

56
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:50pm

Wanker79:

"Andrew, are you in DirecTV’s pocket?"

I'm a civil engineer. I have never worked on anything for DirectTV, and as far as I know, neither has my employer.

"I agree that PPV is a horrible idea, but the thought of them charging $20 per game is patently ridiculous."

So is the idea of them charging $4 per game like they do for a movie, since they only go that low since they are in competition with Blockbuster and the like.

"If DirecTV charges $250/yr to 1.6 million customers, they bring in $0.4B which just barely offsets their cost. If the audience grew to 25 million, they could charge just $50/yr and make $1.25B."

DirectTV has 35 million customers, IIRC, and under 2 million Sunday Ticket purchasers. If we take 100 million US households, that implies a market of at most 5-6 million for Sunday Ticket at that rate. The implication that 25 million would subscribe at $50 seems unfounded based on existing demand and existing football viewership shares.

"while simultaneously making Sunday Ticket exclusively available on a service that many people cannot receive"

It was Easterbrook who pointed out cable refused the product. The NFL did not refuse to offer it to them. Comcast, Time-Warner, RCN, and Cablevision refused to pick it up because they didn't like the deal the NFL offered. DirectTV did.

57
by Hopeless Lions Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:07pm

Wanker, you have the time issue so wrong you're not even wrong. With the magic of DVR (Tivo, whatever), you can watch 3-4 complete games on Sunday in approximately the same time you spend to watch the home team play one game. Instead of taking more time, you magically put 10+ hours back into your Sunday to do other things, while not missing any NFL football shown locally. This is a greater invention than TV, greater than the phone, greater than every invention of the past hundred years save only internet porn.

Heck, MNF takes about an hour to watch the entire game -- just wait until 7:45 or 8pm (left coast time) to start, and you've finished the game (including OT) by 9:15, 9:30 ish. No interminable delays while they go to the replay booth, minimal announcers, just action. If they just gave me a sound feed of all the "at the game" sounds with no announcers at all, I'd be tickled even more.

HLF,
Seattle

58
by Jason H (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:08pm

I should also add the I've lived in 3 apartments and 1 house since getting DTV and before I committed to any of them I made sure I had a view of the southern sky. Yes, there are limitations and some people cannot get access, but the same is also true for cable. My parents lived in a semi-rural area in PA and had to pay an obscene amount to get cable to make the mile run to their house, so they went the satellite route. Both mediums have their benefits, neither is perfect, but I think Gregg should limit his argument to opening up ST to all mediums, rather than slamming DTV at any opportunity.

Re: 38 Just to be sure I sound like a complete shill. DTVs new HD channels are full 1080i or 720p format as their broadcast in MPEG4. Their older channels were compressed in MPEG2 format but their new satellites aren't limited to this format. You can read more facts about it at www.dbstalk.com which if you sort through the bravado can provide good comparisons between Dish and DTV

59
by Boston Dan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:33pm

TMQ is an idiot and I'm now done reading his crap.

What are the Pats supposed to do, take a knee with 9 minutes to go in the game?

There is nothing more embarassing than that...

Well, that is until the Pats put 96 points on the board against the Jets and Ratgini in December.

60
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:34pm

HLF, what I hope the digitized future holds for us DVR football types is some sort of compact notation on the screen for substitutions and/or injuries. Give me that, and I'd hardly listen to a broadcaster ever again.

61
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:35pm

#52: Yes, I aggregated across the entire cable market for simplicity. But from the point of view of the NFL, they're looking for a total figure of $700M. So while the business case for each cable operator would have to be based on their own market share, the business case for the NFL is looking at the entire industry. And they'd expect to get $700M from "the industry".

The second half of my last paragraph does a back-of-the-envelope calculation for Comcast (allocated based on market share). The fact that the NFL would have to cut deals with dozens of cable companies just gives further weight to the argument that their decision to license out-of-market broadcast on an exclusive basis to DTV is a valid business decision on their part, not an unjust monopolistic practice that Congress needs to overturn.

#54: GE was wrong on the financial terms of the contract, so I take the rest of his statements about the contract terms with a grain of salt. Frankly, I'd find a cap on ST subscribers to be very surprising.

First of all, I don't think Fox has any standing to impose conditions on a contract between the NFL and DirecTV without getting into their own antitrust trouble. That would be like Wal-Mart telling Sony that they'll only carry Sony TVs if Sony promises not to sell more than 1 million TVs through Sears.

Second, even if the NFL bowed to some backoffice pressure from Fox and wanted to impose a cap on the number of ST subs, I can't imagine DTV agreeing to this - ST is a customer acquisition tool; why would they explicitly agree to limit the number of customers they're going to use it to acquire?

Third, I can't see how DTV would implement such a cap. "Hello, thank you for calling DirecTV. You'd like to orer NFL Sunday Ticket? I'm sorry, we're all out of that package and we can't sell it to you. Would you like to order HBO instead?"

62
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:52pm

yeah, I've never noticed a dearth of advertising for Sunday Ticket on Directv, so I'd be surprised if it was contractually capped by the broadcast networks.

63
by Zac (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:55pm

Re: 59. I just want to point out that nothing ruins the facade of impartiality quicker than a derogatory nickname for an opposing coach or player.

64
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:58pm

I feel dirty defending Easterbrook, so I just thought I'd clarify my personal position.

While I'd love to get Sunday Ticket through Comcast (since it'd almost certainly be cheaper and I wouldn't have to cut down any trees), I completely understand the NFL's reasoning behind offering it exclusively through DirecTV. The past I absolutely agree with Easterbrook on, is that as long as the NFL offers Sunday Ticket exclusively through DirecTV, they have absolutely zero right to try to force the cable companies to carry the NFLN on their basic programming tier. Which, if you manage to look past the vitriol directed at the DirecTV deal, was the whole point Easterbrook was trying to get across.

65
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:01pm

Re: me

Halfway down my previous post should read "The part I absolutely agree with Easterbrook on..."

*shakes head*

66
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:02pm

Re: 61

I think the cap, assuming Easterbrook is right, is (like the NBA's salary cap) a soft one. As long as the service stays expensive and only available through Direct TV I don't think the networks will make much noise. So Direct TV doesn't have to turn down any potential new customers because the increase in ST will be minimal. (Note: I indicated the increase would have to be significant in my earlier post to create a problem.)

If the price drops a bunch or becomes much more widely available (as speculated in your earlier post) I think it's a different story. Regardless of the legal issues, the NFL needs to be sensitive to the issues of their broadcast partners. If significant growth of of ST hurts local network affiliate advertising revenues, the NFL becomes a less desirable property for the networks, meaning less $$ for the TV rights.

67
by Tom, Uk (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:06pm

re; no.16.

Oh look, Greg Easterbrook throwing out an inaccurate generalization that might make him sound intelligent and insightful to some, but isn't actually all that accurate. I am shocked and astonished, I tell you.

68
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:08pm

Re: 62

Is the advertising on ST the same as the advertising locally? That is, if you're watching a Viking game via ST in Miami do you see the local ads (presumably for Twin Cities businesses) or something else?

I don't have ST to know the answer.

69
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:29pm

Re 56, "DirectTV has 35 million customers."

No way. Maybe half that.

70
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 5:51pm

Re #68
ST ads on out-of-market games are the national ads for national products like beer and car companies and whatever advertising DirecTV can sell to a national audience-watching the Titans play the Raiders last week, I didn't see any ads for Nashville, Oakland, or Chicago (my residence) companies.

Re #64 (and elsewhere)
Notwithstanding my criticism of GE, I am in sympathy with his basic points that (i) it's annoying that you have to get DirecTV to get ST and (ii) the NFL sounds hypocritical when it's trying to get NFLN everywhere on basic, while keeping ST on DirecTV. It's just that we can't say "Alakzam! Poof!" and make the world the way we wish it to be, even if we make up facts and disregard that which refutes us in our effort to do so.

71
by e (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 6:00pm

"When Indianapolis took a 31-7 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter at Carolina, Peyton Manning and most of the Colts' starters sat down."

Nice example. PM sat down for the first time in two seasons.

72
by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 6:24pm

Re 61:

I don't think fox has any kind of a Monopoly (maybe NFC games?). So I don't think they are bound by antitrust laws.

73
by DrPatrick (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 6:29pm

Re: 56

Andrew:
"DirectTV has 35 million customers, IIRC, and under 2 million Sunday Ticket purchasers. If we take 100 million US households, that implies a market of at most 5-6 million for Sunday Ticket at that rate. The implication that 25 million would subscribe at $50 seems unfounded based on existing demand and existing football viewership shares."

You have assumed that the share of DirecTV subscribers that purchase the Sunday Ticket would remain constant at about 5.7%, despite a decrease in price from $250 to $50. In fact, we should expect that share to increase as the price goes down (the first law of demand). GE's estimate that 25 million might buy ST could be way off, but he is right to think that the share of ST purchasers would increase.

74
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 6:45pm

#72: IANAAntitrustL, but I think that a distributor imposing conditions on who else its supplier can sell to (i.e., my Wal-Mart, Sony, and Sears example) would run afoul of some antitrust laws.

#69: As of 6/30/07, DTV has 16.32M subs.

75
by Are-Tee (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 7:15pm

"Last Thanksgiving, the Broncos were 7-4, had a highly ranked defense and held the inside track to win their division."

I'm not sure how a team that was 7-4 could have the "inside track" to win the division when the actual division winner finished 14-2. Wild card was definitely a possibility, though.

76
by Greg (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 12:12am

One of the things I like about Easterbrook as a columnist is that he offers his unvarnished opinion. I disagree with him sometimes, and think his analyses leave something to be desired at others (see his simplistic anti-blitz sentiments), but he never pulls punches when it comes to criticizing the league, teams, or individual players. He considers what Belichick is doing to be bad sportsmanship, he says it, unlike other columnists who either avoid offering an opinion on the controversy (Peter King et. al.) or offer an obnoxious opinion reveling in it (Bill Simmons). If you don't like the fact that he doesn't like Belichick and criticizes the Patriots for running up the score, uh, guess what... YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ HIS COLUMN. I really don't understand the juvenile antagonism toward mainstream football coverage (not just GE but King, Dr. Z, and all the rest as well) by a lot of the posters on this site. It's a simple capitalistic purchasing decision - if you don't like their coverage, don't read it. But stop with the endless bitching and snark about it, because it's dragging down FO, which is otherwise a terrific site.

77
by gregggg hatttter (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 1:15am

#76 - oh, come on. First off, "a simple capitalistic purchasing decision"? Uh, all these columns are free, dude. What does capitalism have to do with it? Second, we read these columns because we love football and so we want football analysis. Yet very often, these people say things that are extremely stupid (most often when they write about something other than football). Are we not supposed to talk amongst ourselves and say, "Man, that was stupid"? What's wrong with that? We'd try not to read this stuff, but where else are we supposed to go for good football analysis? Those guys are supposed to be the industry leaders and being a fan often means knowing what they have to say. Thank God for FO, at least.

78
by Greg (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 3:39am

77-

I was using the term semi-metaphorically. While the columns themselves may be free, you are still investing something to read them (time), as well as subjecting yourself to a barrage of banner ads, pop-ups, etc. So there is an economic tradeoff even if not strictly a monetary one - and the point holds, if you don't want to make the tradeoff, don't.

You may want football analysis, but it doesn't seem to be the sort of analysis that these guys offer, so why are you still looking for it there? Peter King as much as admits he's no good at accurately predicting what will happen in a football game, and actually has a sense of humor about it to boot. His column is much more about anecdotes, stories from the lives of players and coaches, etc. Ditto Dr. Z., only he takes a more historical approach to the game. Easterbrook offers some off-the-wall stats and observations mixed with jokes and random quasi-intellectual musings about science, politics, religion, and contemporary culture. None of these guys is in the business of providing nitty gritty statistical analysis or trying to understand the hidden numbers of the game, but that's not how they present themselves. For the most part, the observations on the game they do make aren't so much stupid as obvious (Brady is proving how good he is now that he has elite WR's to throw to, San Diego is playing better of late, etc.) or simplistic (LenDale White finally performed up to expectations Sunday - he did, regardless of whether it's because he's improved or because the Raiders' run defense stinks). So I don't see why you feel compelled to complain when they are good at what they do do well. A lot of the people seem to get carried away with statistical analysis and forget that there are other valid ways of looking at and enjoying the game. Don't get me wrong - I love FO's approach - but I would get bored of it if everyone wrote about the game the same way, and the gratuitous insults to the integrity, intelligence, etc. of more mainstream writers really do get irritating.

79
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 9:49am

DrPatrick #73:

GE’s estimate that 25 million might buy ST could be way off, but he is right to think that the share of ST purchasers would increase.

That is only true if you assume a very large unfullfilled market for Sunday Ticket, and assume that many people who want Sunday Ticket are currently being denied it because they don't have or want DirectTV. OTOH, if you assume that a great number of the people who want have already purposefully switched to DirectTV to get it, than further expansion of the package offering, combined with a massive price cut might actually generate much less revenue that the NFL is getting today.

I highly doubt even 10% of US households want to pay for out of market NFL games. At $50 per year, it would take a 10% share to make the money being made @ $250 per year today on a 2% share.

80
by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 11:51am

Just to ground everyone on the numbers (all data as of the 2005 FCC report on competition in "multichannel video program distribution"):

Total US households with TVs: 109.6M.

Total US households with "MVPD" (cable, satellite, etc.): 94.2M, 86% of TV households.

Total US cable households: 65.4M.

Total US DBS households: 26.1M.

Total DirecTV subs (as of mid-05, consistent with the FCC data): 14.7M.
Re: 73, 79:

If the cable companies were to offer a Sunday Ticket equivalent to customers at $50/year, they'd have to have a deal where they pay the NFL $30/subscriber/year in order to maintain their 40% profit margin. And if out-of-market NFL games weren't exclusive to any one provider, the cable companies would only want to offer a package like this if they could do it without diluting their margins.

For the NFL to get the same $700M by licensing out-of-market games to all comers (cable companies plus Echostar) at $30/sub, they would need 23.3M subscribers. (Even if the cable companies took zero profit and charged their customers the same $50/year they would be charged by the NFL, that would still mean there would need to be 14M subscribers for the NFL to break even.)

For comparison purposes, for October 7 (the latest week I can find data for easily), the CBS, Fox, and NBC games had between 8M and 10.7M households watching. If less than 11M people watch any one Sunday game - most of which are in-market games with hometown rooting interest - there's no way I can see more than twice that number - or even 14M households - paying even $50/year for out-of-market games.

81
by DrPatrick (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 12:26pm

Re: 79

An increase in share of DirecTV subscribers who purchase ST does not depend on any assumptions about a large unfulfilled market of ST-desiring, non-DirecTV- subscribing consumers. Here's a perhaps overly simple analysis to show that:

Assume that there are 25 million DirecTV subscribers, and assume that number cannot change due to technical difficulties (just for analysis's sake). Currently the price of the Sunday Ticket to them is $250, and there are 3 million purchasers of ST. Then, next season, the price drops to $50 for the Sunday Ticket. If any one of the remaining 22 million non-ST consumers now choose to purchase ST, the ST-purchasers/DTV-subscribers ratio goes up. I don't think there are many, if any, normal goods for which consumers are completely unresponsive to a change in price.

A corollary: does the number of HBO subscribers go up when they offer special deals?

Now, by how much the share increases is a different question. I'm only saying that GE is right to think the share will increase; I'm not saying that he knows what it would increase to, but I also don't think he claims that.

Now let the number of subscribers to DTV vary. If there are people who also subscribe to DTV just to be able to get ST (like myself - actually, my fiancee gave it to me for my birthday... and has been regretting it ever since), then I would think that share of ST-purchasers would go up even further when price goes down. Previously, some people didn't buy DTV b/c they didn't want it except for the ST, but they also didn't want to pay the $250 for ST. Now, with price down at $50, some non-DTV subscribers respond by buying DTV and ST.

Re: 80

Maybe less than 11m people watched any one game Oct. 7 because they didn't have access to the games they wanted to watch. I don't think it's correct to assume that number reflects the total demand for ALL games; it reflects the demand for the games local channels offered that week.

82
by JohnR (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 12:46pm

#76:

this was my favorite:

"or offer an obnoxious opinion reveling in it (Bill Simmons)"

I love how you appreciate GE because he offers his "unvarnished" opinion - but you don't like Simmons since his opinion is "obnoxious". Did you stop to consider the point you were making? just for a second?

Is it worth telling you that one person's unvarnished opinion is another person's obnoxious one?

At least when Simmons uses humor and sarcasm, it comes across that way and he doesn't have to clarify it in future columns.

Simmons also tends to bring more to the table in terms of diversity. GE is getting a bit tired with his buck-buck-brawwk, stop or I will blitz again, and his cheerleader oogling.

But that is just my unvarnished opinion. Hope you don't disagree and take your capitalism somewhere else :)

83
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 2:34pm

"I highly doubt even 10% of US households want to pay for out of market NFL games."

The same could be said about the Home and Garden channel, and yet we all pay for it.

I'd rather pay a couple bucks a month for extra games, than a couple bucks a month for pilates shows, or cooking shows.

84
by Vash (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 3:27pm

Did anyone else get an email from NFL.com just yesterday about fighting "Big Cable" to get the NFL Network?
It's like he knew the war would get turned up this week.

85
by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 3:46pm

#81:

I grant that there is some number of people out there who doesn't have access to the games they want to watch. On the other hand, I would expect that the majority of people in a given geographic area would primarily be interested in games played by the team in that geographic area.

In other words, I would think that the total demand for out-of-market games is less than the total demand for in-market games. The total demand for in-market games, with a marginal cost of $0, is somewhere less than 12M households. Therefore, the total demand for out-of-market games, even at a marginal cost of $0, would be somewhere less than 12M households. And because price elasticity works both ways, the total demand for out-of-market games with a marginal cost of $50/year will be lower still. Certainly nowhere near 23M households.

#83: This sort of cycles back to the NFL Network argument. The NFL wants NFL Network to be in the basic tier, and get paid a fee per basic cable sub. The cable companies want to put it in an extra-cost tier, and pay a fee per subs to that extra cost tier. For a Sunday Ticket equivalent there's an extra complication that it pretty much has to be in a digital tier, since cable companies would not allocate six to ten analog channels for football games one day a week.

Since there are about 35M digital cable subscribers in the US, the NFL would be revenue-neutral if they licensed out-of-market games to all comers at about $20 per digital cable sub per year (assuming they got this deal from all cable companies). Which is about 2 1/2 times the cost of the most expensive programming today (ESPN), which also shows programming (with opportunities for cable company advertising sales) 24 hours a day. I can't see any cable operator paying the NFL $20 per digital sub per year for out-of-market games.

86
by ArizonaCardinalsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:45pm

Let's see here...Easterbrook mentioned Sunday Ticket, NFLN, he even mentioned Field Pass. But he didn't even try to mention SIRIUS radio's NFL channel and the fact that they broadcast every NFL game with both home and away announcers, and that NFL.com advertises it right on their page. $12 a month gets you every NFL game, and you don't have to be tied to a dish, cable, or computer. You can even listen while you're driving across the country-and switch games to your heart's content. And the $12 a month isn't a special extra fee, you get all of their stations for that price. You would think he would mention the package, since he went out of his way to "advertise" for all the others.

87
by V4Velvetta (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 5:48pm

RE: 78:
"So I don’t see why you feel compelled to complain when they are good at what they do do well."

Bingo, Greg-O.

They get grilled here precisely because they are not good at what they do. We have Peter King reading the minds of Tedy Bruschi and Joe Gibbs to attribute thoughts to them to coincide with his agenda, but contradict the very words we have coming out of their mouths (not to mention the twist he did on Wade Phillips.) King's not reporting; he's manufacturing.

Then Easterbrook, who writes a column which King endorses, but ESPN's own ombudsman labels as "inflammatory," writing:
"...feel free to custom design the opinion of your choice out of rumor, speculation and twisted logic, as Tuesday Morning Quarterback Easterbrook did, not once, but twice, in manufacturing extended false analogies between Richard Nixon's Watergate and Bill Belichick's tapegate..."
Easterbrook's neither reporting nor opining; he's libeling.

Sorry to ruin your pristine view of FO, but somebody somewhere in this thread had advice for what you can do about it. Oh, yeah, #76.

88
by Greg (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 8:05pm

I love how you appreciate GE because he offers his “unvarnished� opinion - but you don’t like Simmons since his opinion is “obnoxious�. Did you stop to consider the point you were making? just for a second?

Is it worth telling you that one person’s unvarnished opinion is another person’s obnoxious one?

At least when Simmons uses humor and sarcasm, it comes across that way and he doesn’t have to clarify it in future columns.

Simmons also tends to bring more to the table in terms of diversity. GE is getting a bit tired with his buck-buck-brawwk, stop or I will blitz again, and his cheerleader oogling.

I LIKE Simmons. I read him religiously, and yes, he generally does offer unvarnished opinion as well, which I appreciate. But that doesn't change the fact that every other column is about the Patriots and how awesomely badass they are, when much of the country aren't Pats fans and couldn't care less, is obnoxious. If they were 2-14 he wouldn't write about them so much - he comes across as a braggart fan, which is irritating. That said, he's got a right to write whatever he wants, and you won't hear my calling him unprofessional or slagging his chops as a journalist for it.

Also, I agree that GE has his limitations - I've never said he's my favorite columnist, or that he doesn't get tired.

But that is just my unvarnished opinion. Hope you don’t disagree and take your capitalism somewhere else :)

Fair enough, though you're misusing my analogy. ;)

-87

King, when he speculates, generally recognizes it as such. I read his column every week, and when he does talk about, say, Tedy Bruschi's inner thought processes, he usually says something to the effect of "my impression is" or "this is my read on it" or what have you. If he so badly misrepresents players and coaches, why don't they correct him publicly? Why do they keep talking to him?

As for GE, I suspect his column was only inflammatory to Pats fans, and.. uh.. so what? "Entertainment" slanted columnists (which is what GE is) write inflammatory stuff all the time, because THAT'S THEIR JOB. Do you take offense to Jemele Hill comparing Belichick (in a complimentary sense) to a convicted criminal on today's Page 2? Or Simmons celebrating the Pats' seemingly telling the rest of the league to "F off"? Stop it with the "libel" charge. That's absolute nonsense, and you know it. For one, the allegations against Belichick are PROVEN - as Goodell's punishment shows - and no analogy for them, no matter how inappropriate, could therefore be construed as libel, which is by definition baseless. Secondly, you're ignoring the fact that this sort of thing is pretty much de rigeur for sports columnists of Easterbrook's ilk. Is BS libeling Mangini by comparing him to a mob informant? Is every columnist who's ever criticized Barry Bonds libeling him because the steroid allegations remain unproven? Of course not, because opinion CANNOT be libel. I suspect the only reason you're upset about this is that GE DARED to criticize the Patriots, the favorite team of many posters on this board (yours as well?). Guess what - he's allowed to do that. If Patriots fans are gonna be upset when somebody accuses their team of acting without class, running up the score, cheating, etc. root for a different team that can't be accused of doing these things.

It's a wee bit ironic that everyone here complains so much about personal attacks and off-topic agendas detracting from coverage of the actual game, when a very good chunk of the comments in the threads here consist of exactly that. This is not the personal fiefdom of Pats fans, not everybody likes that team, and not everyone wants to read nothing but glowing praise of them.

89
by coyotl666 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 12:33am

83 - actually we don't pay for h&g or numerous other channels - they're offered free as their money comes from ads.

also, i don't see the objections to ppv, depending on pricing. say a game's priced at $5, you could watch all games for 3 different teams at the st $250 price. assuming that most who are willing to pay for out of market games are those displaced from the team they support a charge just south of $20 might be extorted. i really doubt the market is as high as is portrayed - the dissatisfied masses simply aren't, just those few are vocal. it shouldn't be too hard to sort pricing that matches desire, the question is making it available. living in rental property i can't install direct tv, leaving games i might be willing to pay for unavailable. but like most other than those who have time to devote to numerous games at once (or watch later), i mostly just want to watch whichever game i choose live. i have a similar problem trying to watch champions'league football since the cable providor (espn in this case) seems to think that only four clubs play (united, liverpool, milan and barcelona), meaning i'd need setanta sports to watch me gunners, which requires direct tv. BUT - all matches are available online ppv. it's about 8 bucks which i'll usually pay, and that's the rub - for some it's worth it, for others not and ideally should be priced accordingly. i do think it's ridiculous to demand the 90% who have no interest (and i reckon the number is lower at the price) to piss away 10 bucks for something they don't want. universal accessibility is the issue, pricing will sort itself.

cheers, mark

90
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 1:43am

Hey, Greg, this is my read on it--Peter King would rather make up what people would say rather than listen to what they actually say because it will ruin his story line. And my impression is this--you don't know what an ombudsman is. And my inner thought is that FOers are far more vexed over two FOers getting involved in some steel cage death match like this than they are over people taking so-called professional journalists to task for shabby work. So I'm going to leave you the last word on this.

91
by Greg (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 8:35am

Dan, I studied English in college and write for a magazine. On occasion, I've written op-ed columns. Believe me, I know what an ombudsman is.

I stick by my original point - that this type of column is really not intended as a news item, and can't be taken as such. Len Pasquarelli and Don Banks are examples of news columnists. That's a very valuable service and I enjoy reading their work for the fact-based take on football it offers. Peter King, Greg Easterbrook, Bill Simmons, et. al. are not news columnists. They do not report stories. They write opinion columns intended for enjoyment, not fact-sharing - it's "infotainment" at best. That should be abundantly clear from the references to New Jersey high school softball, Starbucks, cheer babes, astrophysics, fantasy football, the Karate Kid, etc. that these columnists variously and regularly make. Peter King is not distorting facts to fit his story, because he doesn't have a story to distort. He's just offering his own view of the league and his interpretations of the events therein, among other things. Sometimes he offers viewpoints which are later contradicted by what the people in question say, but how is that trying to push an agenda? If you or anyone else here doesn't want to read this type of column, fine, but I really don't see the point of getting one's knickers in a twist because what these columnists do doesn't rise to the standards of hard-hitting journalism. That's not what they're paid to do.

I'm not trying to insult anybody. I'm just saying that their seems to be what to me is an often distasteful level of vitriol toward this kind of sportswriting on this board, which I don't for the life of me understand.

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by JohnR (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 1:58pm

Greg - the only thing that I have taken issue with is that you lauded GE's opinion and column - when he basically took time out of his column to write an entire "mea culpa".

He did a sloppy job at best - or lied at worst. He either meant to call Brady what he did and doesn't really stand behind his apology OR a large number of his readers didn't quite get his sarcasm/satire.

So he is either a liar or did a bad job writing his column.
Fair enough, it happens in a 7,000 word column.

And you want to check Simmons a bit more - he certainly has a Boston slant - but he is primarily a basketball writer. It is certainly different than GE who has taken space in pretty much every column he has written this year to slam the Pats somehow - culminating in satanic comparisons that he still stands by! c'mon - GE is completely beating a dead horse - you don't see the difference between him and Simmons, other than the fact they have divergent opinions? I don't know what to say.

and btw, I think we all "get" the difference between a columnist and a beat reporter.

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by Greg (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 2:30pm

Honestly, I haven't read all that many of Easterbrook's columns this year, largely because I find many of his gimmicks tiresome, so I haven't had a chance to get irritated by the anti-Pats stuff. I agree that it would get tiresome after awhile - but it doesn't make it unprofessional, and again, it then comes back to the "if you don't like it, don't read it" point I made upthread. As for the Satanic comparison, it's ridiculous, of course, but I really don't see how anyone could have not seen that Easterbrook didn't intend it seriously, especially since he generally regularly makes a point of putting football in proper perspective vis-a-vis real life in his column. As I mentioned elsewhere, Jemele Hill compared Belichick to Suge Knight, a convicted felon, and nobody's getting upset about it - perhaps because she meant it as a compliment. The entire schtick of page 2 is to be provocative - TMQ is entirely of a piece.

The reason I've so vociferously defended Easterbrook is precisely BECAUSE a lot of people here don't seem to get the difference between an opinion piece and a news piece.

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by JohnR (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 2:56pm

OK Greg - I guess I will give you a pass since you said you haven't read many of his columns this year, but yet you feel comfortable with your opinions about what he said. (wtf? are you serious? You don't read his stuff - but defend his opinions?)

You really think that drivel like this is unprofessional?:

"I even toyed with apologizing to Belichick, since comparing him to Beelzebub was a tad overloaded. But then I watched Sunday's game and thought, Belichick is exactly what I said!"

You are trying to compare GE to some of the more outrageous Page 2 columnists and I don't buy it. Someone who writes about astrophysics, who's "real job" is writing for The Atlantic Monthly really ought to be held to just a bit of a different standard than your average page 2 dope.

And, dude - we really do know the difference between a columnist and a reporter - I don't see much confusion here. We are just calling him tired and lazy in his witchhunt. We can't call him out for that?

Yeah - I know we can just choose to not read and not comment on it - or we can debate it. What is wrong with a bit of debate and disagreement?

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by Greg (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 10:19pm

JohnR - I DO read his stuff sometimes, just not a lot this year. So I know what his MO is. And I DID read both columns in question, and saw nothing wrong with either.

What does the fact that Easterbrook writes with an intellectual slant or makes his day job writing "serious" columns for the Atlantic Monthly have to do with his moonlighting as a page 2 columnist? If he wrote a "football column as it would appear in the Atlantic Monthly", nobody would read it, because it'd be boring as hell. Page 2 is entertainment, and his job as a page 2 columnist is to entertain. Let me make an analogy. I have an English degree from a highly regarded university. I also happen to be fairly handy with tools because I used to work as a carpenter. Last year, my neighbor hired me to put in a fence around his garden. Should he have been upset that I didn't spend my Saturday morning discoursing on modernist literature or journalistic ethics because that's my academic and professional background? I think you'd agree that it would be ridiculous if he were, because that's not what I was hired to do, even if it's something I can do. Same with Easterbrook.

There's a good deal in the column that is perfectly legitimate fodder for debate - e.g. the solution to the DirecTV quandary, Belichick's sportsmanship, etc. - and many of the comments here have debated those points with gusto. But insults to Easterbrook's competence, intelligence, and/or journalistic integrity are not in any way intellectually meaningful, and frankly, they just come off as childish and petty.

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by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2007 - 5:03pm

just checking back in - in case you get this Greg - looks like your english degree provided you with an ability to use ad-hominem in debates - but did not provide you with the ability to answer a simple question.

I am glad that you think that I am being childish and petty for calling GE out for his 8+ week attack on the Pats culminating last week in his comparing Belichick to beelzebub.

we agree on one thing, though. GE's stuff is certainly entertaining. He gets worse and worse each week - going from Nixon to Beelzebub. It is no wonder why you aren't reading his columns this year.