NFL Moves Closer to PPV

When the NFL began its own broadcasting network two years ago, some of us sounded like Chicken Little in proclaiming that the sky was falling on the future of free NFL on TV. As the network prepares for its third year, the proclamations are getting louder that indeed the sky is falling.

When the NFL announced it was opening its own cable television network, the decision was met with very different reactions. For the hard-core football fan, it was another fix to help deal with their football addiction. For others, it spelled the beginning of pay-per-view NFL television above and beyond the Sunday Ticket.

From those in the latter camp, the announcement last year that the network would start televising preseason games seemed to be a step in that direction. But the recent announcement that the league is going to start televising regular season games on the NFL Network has raised even more eyebrows.

The league announced that an eight-game package of games, starting with a third Thanksgiving Day game and various other games on Thursdays and Saturdays over the final few weeks of the season, will be available only on the NFL Network.

It's unclear if the local market teams selected will have an option to have the game carried in their area for those who don't have the NFL Network. The league is currently shaping its 2006 schedule, which will be announced a couple of weeks before the draft. At that time, we'll know what teams are affected by the change and whether the only way to see those games will be to attend them, buy the NFL Network or go watch the game somewhere that has the network.

While there are still plenty of looming questions, one thing is certain: the era of pay-per-view NFL is getting closer with each passing year. If Monday Night Football can move from the only home its ever known to basic cable -- granted both ABC and ESPN are under the Disney umbrella -- then nothing is safe. While the free broadcast networks have six-year contracts that kick in this year, they may well be the last time the NFL will be available without a fee.

* From the "Say What?" Department comes this: In a radio interview this week, Randy Moss, who had some sharp things to say about Daunte Culpepper when he was traded to Raiders, now said of the rumored reuniting the two, "Him and me reuniting would be a Cinderella story."
* Rep. Andy Westerberg (R-Blaine), one of the strongest advocates of a new Vikings stadium being built in Blaine with the use of taxpayer money, is not going to run for re-election this fall.
* From the Divine Intervention Department comes this: Scott Linehan's passion for the game reaches across family lines. His brother-in-law is actor Jim Caviezel, who came to fame playing Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ."
* Rumors are swirling that Mike Tice might be offered an assistant head coach-offensive line job with the Jaguars.

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