The Cable-Lization Of TV Sports

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: July 12, 2008

CALIFORNIA — The clarion call has gone out to all Americans!

If you currently own a television set with a set of rabbit ears (i.e., antenna), you will discover that your television set will not receive a signal because all networks will be going to digital in 2009.

Your television picture will be snowy with the audio will be fuzzy. That television will be out of order in 2009. In order to upgrade any television set the captured cable customer will have to pay 50 dollars or more to have a converter box attached to their television set.

This is highway robbery especially for lower income Americans.

This will signal the completion of cable-lization of American Television sets which started in 1978-79. 90 % of the American television viewership will be paying for something that was free for over 30 years.

We can thank ESPN, Fox Sports Net (FSN), TNT, Cox, and Comcast and many other cable news and sports stations for this amazing and disgusting capitalistic feat.

It was accomplished without a fight and without a battle until the rates quadrupled within a 10-year period. The United States Congress and Senate began asking questions about the average American Cable bill.

The cable companies told Congress that these fees are needed to obtain the variety of shows on their cable stations. The cable companies told the Senate that they had to pay fees to the different networks for broadcasting their shows thus the cost would be passed on to the costumer.

This issue passed with little attention by the American public. Now we have many cable monsters all over the country, devouring everything in sight including our rabbit ears.

They are literally cleaning out your wallets every month for a formerly FREE service. This has become a nightmare and a major problem for seniors and the disabled

This writer growing up in South Central New Jersey. My dad and I use to watch many baseball games for free. Our television had those old rabbit ears.

We would watch the New York Mets on WOR-TV, the New York Yankees on two stations WPIX-TV (home games) and WNEW-TV (road games), and the Philadelphia Phillies on the local WPHL-TV.

Do you remember those UHF stations? There numbers15 and up were UHF channels on your television dial. They were free too, remember.

On really cool clear nights we would watch the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. The screen was a bit fuzzy but we would still hear the audio clearly.

Our family had a big rotary antenna on top of our three story house and we would turn it in the direction of the station and pick up the game of our choice.

That’s how I became a Met fan in 1967-68 watching WOR day and night. Can you imagine the excitement year later when the Amazin’ Mets would win the World Series against the powerful Baltimore Orioles.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s at lease one game was televised every night. Sometimes you had to searched hard enough and be patience to find the reception.

This is also the case today but under very different circumstances. Now you don’t have to manipulate an antenna or manually turn the channel. Every television has a remote control.

Oh, what sweet memories.

The establishment of ESPN in 1979 of changed the sports world forever. And many follow the television giant pied piper. ESPN has birthed many little sports networks all over the country.

These stations had to be paid for and maintained so they would borrow a theme from the boxing world of PAY FOR VIEW, it worked. Americans are now hooked on Sports.

The Mets are now on WPIX-TV and Sports Net New York (SNY)while the Yankees are on the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES) owned by George Steinbrenner, the ex-chief officer of the Yankees, along with WWOR-TV .

The Boston Red Sox have followed with NESN, the New England Sports Network, a cable network. In fact, except for national games on FOX, all of the Bosox games are on cable.

The Atlanta Braves, formally of Ted Turner’s SuperStation TBS are now on FSN Sports South and the newly-formed Peachtree TV (both cable outlets)

Both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs are on WGN, the Super station out of the MidwestWindyCity as well as Comcast Sports Net on cable.

These stations may have changed their names this year but they are still broadcasting all over the United States and they are still requesting the broadcasting fees from their cable networks.

Blackouts are common place today. If you lived in one team’s territory, you cannot receive the other team’s games. For example, Yankee and Met fans in South Central New Jersey (Phillies territory) cannot receive Yankee or Met home games unless they are broadcast by ESPN or Fox Sports Network and even then it’s not a guarantee.

The Phillies have the right to block transmission of a New York team if Philadelphia plays at home at the same broadcast time. The Phillies have home territorial rights in South Central Jersey and demand that no other team can broadcast games in their area.

In the Bay Area, the Giants and A’s do not enforce this rule. These two teams are not as territorial as their eastern cousins. However the Giants enforce their territorial rights with the Braves, Mets, and Cubs and their super stations broadcasting in the Bay Area when playing at AT&T Park or MacAfee Coliseum.

The NBA has similar issues. The Sacramento Kings cannot broadcast there games in the Bay Area which is Golden State Warrior territory and visa verse.

This issue becomes crazier and bizarre with the three NBA basketball teams in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia (Knicks, Nets, and 76ers) playing in the same geographical area. It is too complicated to write in this article, however, the 80-mile territorial rights rule is strictly enforced.

Each region has its own cable system and in my opinion it is a monopoly. For instance, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Fox Sports South, and NESN. The list is endless and the American public will continue to pay the bills without protest.

The costumer has no choice in their cable company. The Congress and Senate should investigate this aspect of the cable industry because I thought living in America you had the freedom of choice.

In 1989, most cable bill were a little more then seven dollars and change. In 2008, cable bills are over 50 dollars or more for the same service. If the consumer cannot view the teams of their choice.

Why should the consumer pay the bill if should he/she not receive the services and programs he/she wishes? The Cable customer has accelerated this problem for the need of new technology and the need to have a cleaner, brighter, picture with the BOUNDLESS choices of programming.

High Definition television (HDTV) is now the rage in broadcasting, the need to see the “seams” and “quill marks” of the jerseys of our favorite player is just rampant!!

The need to see football player’s foot touching the sidelines inbounds or the baseball touching the foul lines. The cable companies made it clear they needed the extra revenues to produce and maintain this new technology.

The issue of revenue sharing could be raised again. The NFL and NBA put this issue to rest while Major League Baseball still wrestles with this problem.

The rich teams like the Yankees, Mets, Braves, Dodgers, Red Sox, and the two Chicago teams do not want to share their television revenues with poor teams, like the A’s and Giants.

The Yankees have seven different television contracts while the A’s have only three. This is an unfair monetary disadvantage to Oakland, while the same disadvantages exist for the Giants, Rays, and Pirates.

Major League Baseball refuses to address this issue and it progressively is getting worst. Before the end of summer, the Red Sox and Yankees will buy another high-priced star player to help them attain the playoffs while the team they are chasing the first place Rays.

In the meantime, this cable phenomenon has spread to other sports channels for instance OLN now called Versus broadcast National Hockey League games; the Golf Channel and the National football and basketball networks.

Now everybody can find and watch their favorite sport on their cable system. The catch is, you have to PAY extra to receive these sports channels. The cable cookie monster is working overtime.

What was once a wonderful idea is now becoming capitalistic monster and it is devouring everything in sight.

In 1987, this writer refused to have cable. As more and more sports broadcast where shifted to different cable networks, it became difficult to watch sports on regular television sets.

If you did not have cable, you just did not see the game. You could catch the highlights on the local evening newscast. Ironically, that same year ESPN acquired Sunday Night Baseball and NFL Football. Only consumers with cable could watch these games.

This is a true American tragedy for most poor Americans who love watching sports. Cable networks have left customers and poor people in the dust and have not even look back or cared, this has happened for “THE LOVE OF MONEY”.