The network is airing the big Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers game Thursday night to its limited consumer base of 35 million homes.
This is just the situation the NFL seemingly wanted: a big game that consumers can't get too easily. The hope is to turn public sentiment against those big bad cable operators who don't want to carry a network because it doesn't want to pay fees to the NFL all year round -- essentially for eight Thursday night games.
But the NFL Network has less teeth to its bark even with this seemingly marquee attraction. If you are a respective resident of the Dallas or Green Bay, Wisc. metropolitan areas, you can still get the game locally. You can also get the game via satellite program distributors.
What is clear is that while consumers may hate cable operators for a bunch of reasons, what they hate more is paying a premium for cable programming they don't want. Depending on what survey you believe, out of the hundreds of networks consumers now get, they'll only watch anywhere between nine and 13 networks.
What the NFL hasn't counted on is the PR spin of the educated TV consumer.
This is not 20 or 30 years ago, when TV consumers demanded -- for the most part -- that virtually all TV programming be free (with advertising support). For all the power the NFL has versus other sports leagues, it now competes in different entertainment arenas.
TV consumers are savvy to the details of the entertainment business these days. They'd rather have free programming -- but if they can't, they seemingly understand they may have to pay for it. If not, there are plenty of other entertainment and sports options to consider.
NFL's Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones says consumers should just altogether leave the likes of Comcast or Time Warner if they don't carry the NFL Network.
The NFL needs to get a better playbook.