Tuesday, July 30, 2019

DirecTV to NFL Fans: Drop Dead?

By Anthony Brancato

Players' unions have gone out on strike plenty of times. Owners have even locked the players out on occasion.

But a cable company locking out the fans?

Last weekend, in the climax of a dispute centered on the almighty dollar — that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, as Washington Irving iconically put it — DirecTV removed CBS from its list of channels in dozens of markets, including those where 16 NFL teams are located.

Tuning to a CBS affiliate in any of these markets will take you to a screen that includes the URL of an obviously hastily-built anti-CBS propaganda website that would make even the purveyors of the most extreme left-wing or right-wing political site blush, going so far as to warn customers not to switch to another provider since there is no guarantee that the same thing won't happen there, too.

In any event, both sides have appeared to dig in their heels for the long haul — which could mean that this thing won't be settled in time for the first Sunday's worth of NFL games on September 8.

In both Weeks 1 and 2, FOX has the doubleheader privilege, so essentially no markets would be severely effected by the DirecTV lockout of CBS if it is still on by then, as every market would at least receive one early-time-slot game and one late-time-slot game (on FOX).

But in Week 3, CBS has the doubleheader privilege — so if you're in Philadelphia, for example, you won't get any late-time-slot game at all, because FOX, which will carry the Lions at Eagles game in the early time slot, is barred from covering any late-time slot game on that network, leaving Philly viewers with only one Sunday afternoon game that week.

What can be done about this?

Roger Goodell can step in — by decreeing that, for the duration of the dispute, one early-time-slot game and one late-time-slot game be carried on NFL Network, which would preemptively lift DirecTV's de-facto blackout of innocent fans who have nothing to do with its vendetta against CBS (and that the two selected games will also be carried on a local over-the-air station in all four markets). Goodell, who suffers from probably the lowest approval ratings of any commissioner in league history, would see those numbers soar if he does this — just in time for what promises to be rough-and-tumble negotiations with the NFLPA.

Roger Goodell — a hero? As Burt Ward, who played Robin on the 1960s "Batman" TV series (and is still very much alive at age 74) would have said, "Holy impossibility!"

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