ESPN will televise an NFL wild-card playoff game in 2015. And another brick in the wall falls.
Cable television long ago took over sports programming, and now the championships are taking over more and more. The Final Four semifinals were on TBS. College football’s Bowl Championship Series moved to ESPN several years ago. The NBA’s conference finals are on TNT and ESPN. Baseball’s playoffs, though not the World Series, have been on a variety of cable outlets.
The last holdouts were the NFL and, I suppose, major golf championships. But now the NFL playoffs are stepping into the cable realm.
ESPN and its fellow networks are charging more and more to cable companies. The channels have to be able to deliver content that the public demands to see, and championship sports would rank at or near the top of the list.
Most American homes are wired for cable or satellite. But a some homes still rely on over-the-air networks. Those consumers are out of luck. And this trend will not change. It will go away from broadcast television. More cable. More computer-based.
We’re still a long way from a pay-per-view Super Bowl, but we’re not so far away from digital viewings of a variety of must-see events. The idea that we’ll always have access to certain events on free television or even basic cable, that’s a bad bet. The American public has an appetite for sports, an appetite for technology, and someone will figure out a way to maximize profits.