UK NFL fans fearful over TV deal row

NFL At Wembley

With days until the NFL season kicks off, a central broadasting deal still is yet to be agreed.

The NFL have been making big noises about creating a franchise based in London, largely because of the huge interest in American Football which has packed out Wembley Stadium for regular season matches in recent years.

But their hopes of progressing the sport in the UK face being dealt a huge blow unless a resolution to the current TV deal standoff is agreed, and fast.

Even though the first game of the NFL season will be played this Wednesday - or Thursday for those in the UK - between the Dallas Cowboys and the reigning champions the New York Giants, millions of NFL fans in the UK do not know if - or at least how - they will be able to watch it.

The dispute is between NFL UK, Sky and ESPN, who have so far been unable to agree a upon package for their subscribers.

The only agreed coverage to date is from Channel 4 for one Sunday/Monday game in the early hours each week, plus the BBC coverage of the Superbowl.

Which is all well and good, but they are small change compared to the two games every Sunday night plus RedZone coverage Sky have been able to offer in recent years.

Sky have their own studio team led by Kevin Cadle and Neil Reynolds, who provide analysis and help minimise ad breaks as dictated by the FOX or CBS networks. They themselves will be keen for it to return but details are scant.

The fact we are so close to the season opener and no agreement has been formalised is infuriating for followers of the sport in the UK.

Fans have bombarded forums on NFLUK to complain at the current situation and voiced their discontent on Twitter.

NFLUK have themselves issued statements, saying they understand fan's concerns, and hope to announce a resolution by Tuesday (tomorrow) at the earliest. Cutting it fine is an understatement.

For many, leaving it this late will sit uneasy. For a sport so rapidly increasing in popularity, this should have been sorted months ago.

There is one other option, buy the NFL GamePass. For £100 this may be the best option, but fans will not want to do this only for Sky to announce coverage hours later.

Many fans subscribe to Sky purely for the NFL so if the channel do not carry on providing coverage for the sport they have invested so much in recent years it will be a real own goal.

Fans will wait until the last possible moment regarding GamePass, if Sky or ESPN do not acquire the rights, NFLUK will have to hope their servers can deal with thousands of fans simultaneously downloading the product hours before the season opener.

All is not lost, but the uncertainty so close to the start of the season is more than a little farcical.

image: © vtravelled