One For The Record Books

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - It's refreshing to know that the best interest of the TV viewing public at large has been served at least once this year, in the waning days of 2007. It was announced on Tuesday that Saturday night's Patriots-Giants game will be simulcast on both NBC and CBS, as well as on the NFL Network. This last minute maneuver insures that the 60% of the American public that was unable to watch the NFL Network, will now be able to watch this historical game on TWO other broadcast networks.

This is truly a history making TV event, in more ways than one.

In addition to the various NFL records that are set to be broken, this will be the first three-network NFL game ever simulcast. And my own personal prediction, that it will be the most watched Saturday TV program so far this century (at least according to the miniscule 2,300+/- national TV ratings households who will watch, and vote on behalf of the silent, huddled masses).

More importantly, however, it will also set a record for "the most questions to be asked about a football game," breaking the 16 question mark set by the Detroit/Kansas City game in week 15 of the 2003-04 season (from whence came such classic queries as, "Why would anybody watch this game, other than fantasy football fanatics hoping Shawn Bryson would rush for more than 100 yards?")



So, here's one for the record books:

1) How did NBC and CBS land the telecast, and not Fox? After all, DirecTV carries the NFL Network, and will certainly lose a substantial number of viewers to their lower tier, HD-enabled broadcast brethren, to the exclusion of News Corp.-owned Fox.

2) What does the carriage deal look like for this one game?

3) Will there be the availability of road-blocking (the same ads appearing on all three networks at once)?

4) Will the NFL Network retain some exclusivity for spots to be run on the other networks?

5) What's the real message being delivered by an ad for the NFL Network, bragging about the exclusivity of games available only on the NFL Network?

6) What's the precedent being set here; that it's only okay for the NFL to exclusively broadcast unimportant games on the NFL Network? Heck, even the New York Times piles it on: "..if the game draws 30 million is a triumph of the power of two fully distributed, traditional broadcast networks, not a vindication of the channel's quality."

7) Will John Kerry use this moment in time to announce his run for the 2008 presidency?

8) Or better yet, future NFL Commissioner? (It's been widely reported that Kerry apparently played Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, asking football Commissioner Roger Goodell to move the game to NBC - and threatened Senate hearings if he did not.)

9) Why did Kerry request NBC?

Along those lines, I read that Vermont's Sen. Leahy and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, even threatened to reconsider the league's federal antitrust exemption if the game didn't find its way to more TV sets.

Which leads to question 10) - Is this the way to get the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate antitrust behavior? Now I'm really interested! I'm delighted that transplanted Yankees here in Florida will have a chance to see history in the making. Of course, I also subscribe to DirecTV because of their Sunday Ticket and NFL Network offerings - or should I say, used to subscribe. Now that I know how this racket works, I'll probably just cancel my DirecTV subscription and write to my senator instead, whenever a game I really want to watch isn't on NBC or CBS. I never thought of the Senate as a time-delayed remote control, but heck, 11) If it works, then why not?

Here's a quick question for Senators Leahy and Specter - 12) If a Patriots/Giants game can trigger a judiciary hearing investigation into revoking antitrust exemptions, what does it take to convene Senate hearings to investigate the non-exempt, 50-year monopolization of TV ratings - the currency behind $70 billion in annual TV ad sales?

After all, 13) Which is more important, 20 million households watching a football game for three hours, or $70 billion of inaccurately measured ad dollars, ultimately paid for by the American people and the U.S. Government (i.e. U.S. Army commercials), monetized by a 100% monopoly that cozies up to its most threatening competitors (read: cable operators)?

And 14) Doesn't it concern anybody that, in an effort to stave off the likelihood of its largest competitor entering the market and replacing it with superior and more cost-effective and vastly more inclusive technology, the 100% monopolist offers to hastily launch potentially non-accredited local people meter (LPM) technology in almost all of its competitor's markets? Amazingly, this new LPM "technology" will increase the competitor's ad revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars each year, through increased cable ratings and commensurate ad dollars. This incremental windfall profit comes at little additional cost to the cable operator, and actually increases the monopoly's revenues as well.

Creating question 15) Who does pay?

I'll answer that one: Ironically, the same football fans who were going to be denied the right to watch the Patriots game on Saturday. After all, we the people ultimately pay for all TV and TV advertising - and even the billion dollars a year that Nielsen charges, so that 99.98% of us can be ignored in the ratings process.

16) Does any of this warrant Senate (or FCC) hearings?

I'll answer that one, too: No. But take a piece of leather, slap it around an air bladder, stick it in a field in the hinterlands of New Jersey, and by God, if we all can't sit around the TV and watch it get thrown and kicked for three hours, we're gonna have a Senate inquiry!

And so, my friends, as 2007 slips into oblivion, I'll ask the record breaking 17th question: 17) Who cares anymore?

Editor's note: Frank Maggio's company, erinMedia, has a federal antitrust suit pending against Nielsen Co.

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