The cable company I use at home (Time Warner) was the last major cable operator to agree to terms with NFL Network, and I was finally able to order both NFL Network and the accompanying NFL RedZone channel (for an additional fee) in late September.
But only now, in the NASCAR offseason, have I truly been able to appreciate NFL RedZone. It's a complete game-changer in terms of watching sports on TV, and I now plan my Sundays around it.
For those who don't know, RedZone airs seven straight hours of uninterrupted football by jumping around from game to game. There are no commercials – ever!
When I sit in front of the TV watching RedZone, I don't even want to leave the couch for food or a bathroom break because I might miss something. I'm an eager consumer of the NFL's product for an entire day – maybe even an addict.
Even though I don't see a single ad, the NFL still gets something from me with RedZone: In addition to the extra fee (actually less than $10 per month, if you can believe that), the channel has made me more of an NFL fan. Why? Because I'm seeing teams and players that I'd never see if I just relied on the weekly CBS and FOX games (I don't have satellite TV and thus no NFL Sunday Ticket).
So why am I writing all this in the NASCAR section of SBNation.com? Because it's now even clearer NASCAR badly needs something like RedZone.
With FOX, ESPN and TNT still refusing to run side-by-side commercials with the race coverage for all of some races and portions of others (they cite advertisers not being on board) and not all NASCAR fans having access to satellite (where DirecTV's NASCAR HotPass has fewer commercials), NASCAR needs a pay option for fans who want uninterrupted action.
If you were watching a movie and it was interrupted by previews – and you completely missed key parts of the film – would that be OK? That's what NASCAR fans deal with every week.
I have yet to meet a NASCAR fan who is satisfied with the amount of commercials shown during races. So here's an honest question: Why can the NFL do it and not NASCAR?
Whether by a pay-per-view option or a channel subscription like RedZone, NASCAR needs to make an ad-free version of its broadcasts available for cable subscribers.
The online supplement known as "RaceBuddy" is not enough in its present form. It's too far behind the action, unreliable and goes to a commercial every time fans switch the camera angle.
If avid fans are willing to pay for a commercial-free telecast, why not give it to them? NASCAR would make more money and get fans more excited about the sport at the same time. It would be a win-win, much like RedZone has shown to be for football.
Whatever the politics and contractual roadblocks or other obstacles, NASCAR needs to make commercial-free viewing an option – and a priority.