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New NFL Network boss doesn’t see games leaving free TV


The hog may be fat, but it’s not stupid.

In an interview with Peter King of, new NFL Network chief Brian Rolapp says that the NFL won’t be shifting to a pay-only model any time soon.

“We have built a very good thing here by making NFL football available to as many people as possible,” Rolapp said. “I don’t see free TV going away.”

As long as the folks who own the free TV networks are willing to pay billions to televise the games, free TV won’t go anywhere. It’s a multi-level win for the league. Huge money on the front end, maximum exposure on the back end.

Three-hour national infomercials. Three of them back-to-back-to-back on Sunday and now (for half the season) one on Thursday night.

While the league derives even more revenue from its Monday night cable deal with ESPN, the audience is smaller. So it’s a device to be used sparingly. The minute the NFL leverages its current popularity into maximum revenue from cable TV (or even pay-per-view) the audience shrinks and, over time, the interest level drops.

Which means that Mark Cuban has underestimated the NFL. The NFL realizes that there are limits to what it can do.

“Only the paranoid survive,” Rolapp told King. “So, yeah, there’s always danger of killing the sacred cow. The trick is not allowing your concern for killing the sacred cow to paralyze you, and embracing change. . . . I you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.”

Amen to that. Roger Goodell’s NFL rejects complacency. Instead, he’s constantly looking for ways to improve the product.

Will that open him up to criticism from those who don’t want change? Sure. But if you don’t like criticism, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.