RedZone Channel Coming to Cell Phones, Network Executive Nightmares

Beginning next season, the ever popular NFL RedZone channel will be available to cell phone users, making it easier for casual fans to keep up with live action on the field while being shunted to the mall on Sundays against their will. ↵

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↵Less enthused than the fans who now need not be attached to their couch or bar seat to keep up are the networks who see a possible dilution of value in their billion dollar deals with the league. After all, if fans are treated to fragmentary broadcasts of games at their leisure, the networks ability to guarantee ad exposure to sponsors is appreciably hamstrung. ↵

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↵In many ways, the move is against the grain for the league, which has been more stringent than other professional sports leagues in limiting ways fans can experience their product, especially when it comes to viewing video content online. In addition to forcing fans to go to the league's own site to view highlights, it has been able to control just how much of any game can be viewed outside the original broadcast. Aside from another revenue stream, it's been another way to protect the value of expensive broadcast rights. ↵

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↵For the time being, the networks aren't irate about the change, but are certainly aware of the possible implications. ↵

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↵⇥"RedZone hasn't hurt us yet, but we watch it very closely," said Sean McManus, president of news and sports for CBS. "Anything that would adversely affect our ratings on a Sunday afternoon would be a major concern to us." ↵
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↵This might have something to do with the fact that even if some viewers migrated to the RedZone channel this past season in their viewing routine, the overall ratings of the league continue to rise. And while watching critical parts of ongoing games on a phone is a nice convenience for the fan on the go, it's doubtful that the new feature will drive fans from their regular viewing perch on gameday. Should that prove wrong, however, it will be staggering how quickly the NFL reverses this policy rather than jeopardizing one of its chief cash cows. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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