NFL, DirecTV Find New, Creative Ways to Bankrupt You

by Paul William Tenny

Let's do a little comparison here. The DirecTV MLB package gives you about 140 games (with about 20 national blackouts due to monopolistic, predatory licensing) for about $140 per year. That's about one dollar per game, and a really good deal. Now let's think about that NFL package for a moment. $269 for 16 regular season games. That's about $16 per game, making it what, about 95% more expensive on a per-game basis?

Settle in football fans, the National Football League and DirecTV are finding new and creative ways to suck even more money out of your pockets, as if a car payment's worth isn't enough. Now they are going to begin streaming games online (a full 2-4 years after MLB has been doing this) for an extra hundred per year.
DirecTV received the rights to stream the Sunday afternoon games as part of its multimillion-dollar package that it signed with the NFL three years ago. But Eric Shanks, DirecTV's executive vp entertainment, said Wednesday that the company last year didn't feel the reach or the quality was going to be up to standards. But technology and the march of broadband has caught up, he said.

"We think now is the right time," Shanks said. "We can keep the quality of the Sunday Ticket experience online."

That's funny, I was under the impression that broadband growth in the United States as being severely curtailed by price and lack of availability. As a nation, we're one of the most expensive in the world. As a nation, we're 12th in availability and falling extremely fast. What bothers me is that this excuse about the ability of broadband to handle good quality video is simply a flat out lie, because broadband in this country is getting worse on an annual basis.

Not better.

But that's not the real kicker here, it's that broadband in this country has been capable of broadcast quality streaming video for several years now, and the true advancements are coming in video compression and the accompanying increases in computer processing power that can handle the new compression codecs like AVC-1. I'll show you what I'm talking about.

The above image is not fullsize, but if I did my job right, you can click on it to get a popup of the fullsize image. This isn't DVD resolution (720x480) because I was still learning how to make good digital copies of these things when I turned this into a highly compressed AVC-1 video. I now make these things in full 720x480. Here's the skinny, visually compare the image above to the image below, and look at high incredibly close they are in quality.

This lower one is the original DVD image. The one above is the AVC-1/h264 video. The original DVD is 5.7GB, and would require a broadband connection capable of downloading a sustained 798K per second, or about 6.4 megabits per second. DSL usually tops out at 1.5 megabits per second for residential customers, while I've seen cable internet connections going that high, it is rare, and not cheap.

The AVC-1/h264 video, which you can plainly see looks just as good as the original DVD, is 1.1GB for a movie that's just shy of two full hours in length. Streaming it would only require a connection capable of downloading a sustained 1.2 megabits per second, or roughly 159K per second.

While that speed is short of what you can get with broadband satellite connections, it's easily doable over both cable and DSL, and has been for quite some time. Note, you won't get quality this good from the NFL, the MLB, YouTube, or anyplace else for that matter.

The only place you'll be seeing AVC-1/h264 video anytime soon is on high definition DVD's, or if you make them yourself like I have done. I rip all my DVD's to disc, then compress them with h264 and store them on one of my DVR's two hard drives for quick and easy access.

The point is this: the speed isn't an issue now, wasn't an issue last year, and hasn't been an issue for a while now. The NFL has dragged their feet because they, like the movie studios, are scared you'll find a way to pirate the games, even though you can easily capture them with a $150 video capture card off regular broadcast TV.

The tech is there, they just won't use it, and now they are making you pay even more money for it. Nice.


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