A Crowded Huddle: Trying to Watch Football in 2023

By Shane Petagna

In the present day, football, not baseball, is America’s pastime. No other sport reaches the masses like football, controlling weekend entertainment across the country every fall and winter until the Super Bowl.

But in this present day, the modes in which games are presented to us have also modernized. As more households cut the cord from cable and other TV providers for streaming, networks have added games strictly on their platforms such as Peacock and Prime Video. But just because I’m now using a Roku remote to put the game on doesn’t mean it’s a better viewing experience than what viewers had before.

First, exclusivity of the games just means more money coming out of your pocket. To watch every NFL game this season, you’d need the NFL Sunday Ticket package or at the very least NFL RedZone. The Ticket gives access to every game not being aired on your local Fox and CBS networks, which you’ll need a TV provider for those games along with Sunday night games on NBC and Monday night games on ESPN. RedZone does a fairly good job of covering every game’s important moment and is a favorite of mine especially when my Giants aren’t playing a game in the 1 p.m. slot. Another subscription to Amazon Prime Video is needed to watch Thursday Night Football, or to avoid a fee you could watch the game via the Prime Video Twitch channel. Lastly, the Week 4 game between the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars from London will air exclusively on ESPN+, adding another subscription fee to anybody who wants to watch.

But for fans who are loyal to their teams, the practicality of watching football is lost. Take college football, for example. When the No. 8 Washington Huskies took on the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday, the game was aired exclusively on Peacock, which you need to pay for a subscription. If you wanted to watch a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in Michael Penix Jr. play, you’d have to completely commit to watching that game on its own platform rather than flip through other games like big rivalries in Tennessee vs. Florida or Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia. And since the Peacock games are on their own platform, you’ll have no choice but to sit through the commercials even though you are already paying NBC directly to watch the game.

To put all the eggs in one basket on streaming platforms, especially in college football, probably won’t bring in as many viewers. Matchups that are put in primetime slots or placed exclusively on streaming services can look good on paper but end up being duds; just look at the Week 1 Sunday night game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

However, there are pros to the modern way of watching football. The NFL Sunday Ticket was always ahead of its time and is now in a better place after its deal with DirecTV expired. Now owned by YouTube, college students can watch every out-of-market NFL game for a reasonable price of $109 or $119 with RedZone. For UT students, where most of the students are from out of state and didn’t grow up as fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this deal makes even more sense.

At the end of the day, the digital age has made it more difficult to enjoy football the way I had growing up. I yearn for the times when I’d load up my DirecTV box with 5 games at a time and revolve through the “Last 4” and revolve through them whenever there was a commercial break. Now with more exclusivity, trying to enjoy the sport is much harder when you’re forced to choose between which game you want to watch at a given time slot.

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