Monday Night Football ought to be FREE in HD

September 6, 2006

Week 1 of the NFL is finally in the bag. The fragmentation of the American football experience in now underway. Watch games live? Sure. With DirecTV you can watch all of them. Watch games encapsulated down to every play and only 30 minutes long? Sure. Watch entire game replays a la carte, yet another reason no one needs a TiVo (or someday soon you won’t)? You bet.

The NFL Network is underway and stretching their content to reach any viewer, on any device, at any time, AND wherever you want. Done. Football is as ubiquitous as baseball.

Watch Monday Night Football in HD for free? Nope. In case you didn’t know MNF moved from ABC, where it was available FREE in HD, where it had been since the beginning of time, to ABC’s sister-network ESPN. Since most Americans subscribe to either cable or satellite television then, I guess, making us tune in to a cable/satellite channel is OK…but just barely. Most of us don’t realize we actually pay for ESPN. We don’t realize this because it is part of most basic cable offerings. It feels free.

All of that said, the HD version of ESPN is not FREE. Both cable and satellite companies routinely charge for the “HD Package” which is nothing more than an HD broadcast of channels, which for the most part, we already all pay for like ESPN.

Isn’t charging for the HD broadcast of MNF (or any show for that matter) penalizing the early adopters? Shouldn’t a longstanding institution like MNF -something I can remember watching on a bean-bag chair on green shag carpet in footie pajamas – still be free? Yes. Even this morning I still found myself perplexed by this inequity as I dropped my little boy off at school. Charging early adopters for HD of an already broadcast channel is wrong. Funny. In the rear view mirror I saw my son engaged in a conversation with his Principal, Mr. Schnick. I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Schnick was telling him he had to pay to come into the school…