Yesterday the Washington Times broke a story that we’d been tipped off to by an anonymous source a few days ago. In the process of fact-checking and seeing what we could verify, the Times ran its article.
The long and short of the situation is this, satellite television companies have created a “fan advocacy” group called the Sports Fan Coalition. The purpose of the group is to lobby Washington in support of sports fans. The group’s platform includes demanding that publicly financed stadiums offer cheaper tickets and have no media blackouts; the creation of a college football playoff; and demanding that local sports fans can view their local sporting events via television or the internet regardless of their service provider.
Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong.
The group is almost completely backed by satellite television networks and another of its goals will be to push for enforcement of rules governing the carriage of sports networks that will benefit satellite at the expense of competing cable providers.
Thanks to a power point presentation acquired via our anonymous source, we obtained a list of the group’s corporate board of advisors and contributors. Five companies are listed: DISH Network, DirecTV, RCN, Verizon and AT&T.
The idea of any group including DirecTV advocating for more fairness in the marketplace is laughable at best. The group claims to want to push against exclusivity, while they have an exclusive right to the most valuable property in all of sports, NFL games.
The Power Point we have access to, lists the organization’s board. The Chairman of that board is David Goodfriend, who is a former lobbyist for Dish Network.
Also, one of the non-profit advisory groups for the Sports Fan Coalition is Public Knowledge. While Public Knowledge has always wished to maintain the image of an incorruptible consumer advocate, they’re now part of a dubious corporate-backed coalition. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (a lobbyist watchdog group) has already dubbed the Sports Fan Coalition as an obvious front-group to lobby on behalf of satellite companies.
“It seems like a classic front group,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the Times. “Their whole point is to get away with something and fool people into making them think they care about sports. It’s the product of lobbyists.”
Our source on the inside of this whole deal claims to have come forward because he feels this group will mislead sports fans into supporting something that will actually, in the end, hurt them. He, understandably, chose to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of this issue and the fact that his job might be on the line if his name was made public.
Here is what he told us:
“As you know, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other large companies have regional and some national sports networks. Plus, the rumored deal between Comcast and NBC would give Comcast enough sports content to rival ESPN. This likely has competitors quaking in their boots. The Sports Fan Coalition will likely attack cable companies for placing sports teams games – played in arenas/stadiums funded by local taxpayers – on a cable tier for which people must pay.”
Obviously the satellite industry isn’t completely blameless in this regard, considering DirecTV maintains a long term, exclusive deal with the NFL for its Sunday Ticket package. For years cable customers (like me) have been frustrated with their inability to access that package without having to switch to satellite TV full-time. To be fair, I would probably switch to satellite if they could ever figure out a way for me to be able to actually watch TV when it’s freaking raining outside.
This year, when the NFL is blacking out games locally because fans can’t afford over-priced tickets due to the state of the economy, the only way to get access is through DirecTV. Therefore the satellite television industry has partnered with the NFL to black out local games, but rather than try to fix the problem or do the right thing, they’re going to attempt to drive fans’ anger toward their cable competitors.
Now don’t get us wrong, cable companies are not angels and we’ve got plenty of problems with them. We just think it’s completely disingenuous for satellite companies to act as if they’re working completely in the interest of fans, when in reality they’re pushing their own agenda.
Our source continued regarding the launch of the Sports Fan Coalition:
“Its ‘soft launch’ will take place in fall 2009 with a public launch and press conference coming sometime between October and December.
So far they’ve been keeping news of this launch under wraps, but they recently submitted a logo competition to a crowdsourcing Web site; apparently they didn’t know Google’s spiders would crawl it.”
If you want to check out the Power Point for yourself, it has been taken down but can be accessed via Google cache here.
So basically don’t believe anything coming from the Sports Fan Coalition. They’re not looking out for you in any way, shape or form. While their stated purpose sounds lovely, the actual goal of the group is to get more power and access for the same satellite companies that are currently ripping off the American consumer.
A Note On Our Source: He wanted us to make it clear that while he thinks this whole thing is a sham, he does have an interest in seeing it fail and be outed for what it really is. He didn’t come forward solely for altruistic reasons. And it now appears that he “leaked” this information to as many places as possible.