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The Unseeable Game

by Craig Edwards

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 2:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:41 PM

By Craig Edwards

If two of the NFL's best teams played a game, but nobody could actually watch it... did they really play the game?

That's a bizarrely philosophical question the NFL may be asking itself later tonight, as the Green Bay Packers visit the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams are 10-1, and this matchup could determine home field advantage for the NFC playoffs. It's safe to say this one is highly anticipated.

But there's one small problem, and by small I mean insanely huge. The game is on NFL Network, which only about 13 million homes can watch (out of around 70 million cable homes in the U.S.).

Why such a small number? The world's most powerful sports league is in a bitter dispute with cable companies around the country over how they offer the channel. The exact details of their dispute vary by cable company. They're also long and complicated, so here's the Reader's Digest version:

The NFL wants to charge cable companies whatever it wants, but wants the cable companies to put the network in their expanded basic packages, alongside other sports networks like ESPN and such, without passing the extra cost to consumers. Meanwhile, the cable companies want to sell the network only as part of extra sports tiers. They claim NFL Network is too obscure and specialized to be part of a basic package, though they keep other obscure channels (like the Comcast owned Versus Network) on the basic packages, simply because they own them.

These feuds have gotten so bad, the NFL even went on a campaign telling fans to switch to Direct TV or Dish Network, which both carry the network as part of their expanded basic lineups. However, a court order stopped that marketing pretty quick.

As these multimillion dollar empires battle it out for even more money, the biggest loser is the fans. They won't get to see tonight's game, or any of the Thursday night contests for the rest of the year, the second straight season that's happened. Both sides should be embarrassed.

If you want to watch the game tonight, show some love to your local sports bar, or find a buddy who has DirectTV or Dish Network and crash their party.

Enjoy the game... if you can find it.