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First, to Duncan

Listen, the Sportsburglar absolutely loves Tim Duncan. Besides Jordan, he is the best basketball player in my lifetime, or will be by the time he is done. The Spurs are about to ink him to a $40 million extension. The thing that I love about this extension is the way that it went down. The Spurs “showed their respect” by sitting down with him and his agent and making him a max extension offer. Then, they proceed to spell out for him their plan for the future and why its better for the team if he takes $40 million instead of $50 million, thus allowing the team to use that $5 million a year on other players. The guy wants to win and as he always shows on the court, he’s willing to do what it takes to get it done. Simply the best.

The NFL Network

A pretty good article on the NFL Network and the history of the Sunday Ticket Package. The Sportsburglar doesn’t have much of an opinion on the Sunday Ticket exclusivity with DirectTV. This is the first year that I haven’t had the Sunday Ticket in a few years and I do miss it. I do object to Easterbrook’s seeming assertion that there are only about 7 people in the entire country that are able to receive DirectTV.

What I do want to talk about however is the NFL Network. First, if you haven’t read the Politburglar’s piece on the state of cable television and a la carte cable, check it out. The situation with the NFL Network is very instructive on why a la carte cable would be good for consumers and bad for corporations.

For those of you that aren’t aware, the NFL is currently in a brou-ha-ha with Cablevision and Time Warner, among others, over the tiering of the NFL Network on their cable networks. Essentially, the NFL wants all cable customers to pay about a $1.00 a month in order to receive the NFL Network, which carries eight live games a year. The cable companies would like to put the NFL Network on a Sports tier package which would require most cable subscribers to fork over about $10 a month for the NFL Network and the other channels on that tier.

First, here’s the take of Rich Eisen, the NFL Network’s stool pigeon, as emailed to SI’s Peter King: “If the NFL allowed NFL Network to be distributed in the manner that certain cable companies desire, like Tom’s TW Cable or your Cablevision, then NFL Network would be on a pay tier — as in an extra $8 or $9 PER MONTH. And we’d be on a tier with many channels you’ve never heard of. At that point, I’d imagine Tom would write you with outrage that the NFL was making him pay that amount of money to get the channel.

Believe me, NFL Network would be available to Tom on his cable system right now if we had our way. It seems more appropriate for Tom to wonder about the dissatisfaction the cable companies have created by NFL Network not being on his cable system, instead of the other way around. By the way, if we got on Tom’s system the way we prefer, it would cost Tom the price of a movie ticket over the entire year, as opposed to nearly that much every month.”

Now, it was nice of Mr. King, who is a Time Warner employee to allow Eisen to state his company’s position for the public. Unfortunately, Eisen’s take is totally one-sided When the NFL negotiated its most recent tv package with the networks, it witheld 8 games per year from the networks in order to broadcast those games, for the first time, over the NFL Network. Comcast had offered the NFL $400 million a year for the right to broadcast those games on its VS. network (yeah, the same POS that the NHL is on). Recognizing that this offer was made by Comcast so that it could eventually increase the rights fees that VS. would receive the next time it negotiated with other cable operators, and the NFL turned it down. Somebody was going to get to charge consumers a bundle of money for these 8 games and the NFL wanted to make sure that it got the lion share of that revenue.

Now, the best laid plans left the NFL with a bunch of cable networks that were unwilling to be bullied into charging you more for a product that they had always either (i) not gotten or (ii) gotten for free. The big boys are fighting it out for the right to charge you money and acting as if they are doing you a favor by fighting the good fight against the evil Cable Bully/NFL Bully.

One more time: a la carte cable.