How Much Money Does It Cost These Days To Watch Sports on Television?

Last weekend I had the desire to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

I knew that it was that time in the season for NBC to take over coverage of the races.

Okay.  No problem.  I’ll just check the local NBC channel and . . . . . . . there’s no race coverage.

Strange.  I’ll check it again.  Maybe it’s a race on the west coast and it has a later start time.

Nope.  There’s no mention of any NASCAR race at all on NBC on Sunday.  That’s rather peculiar since the local NBC channel has been covering races in the second half of the season for years now.

Just for fun I decided to do a search for “NASCAR” in the program guide for television.  Sure enough, it was listed.  It was being broadcast live on an NBC channel.  The only problem was that the race was being broadcast on NBCSN, NBC’s premium channel that they use for live sports.  As you can guess, my wife and I don’t receive that channel.  We just have a basic package with Dish Network.

So no NASCAR races for me while they’re being broadcast on NBCSN.  That’s not really a problem as NASCAR has been going downhill for a while now, and it’s actually difficult to sit and watch a race from start to finish.  These days I’ve mainly had the races on television as a background noise while I’ve been working on my computer.

It’s still annoying though that as long as NBCSN is broadcasting the races, then I won’t even have the option of watching them unless I upgrade to Dish Network’s “America’s Top 200” package (or higher).  I’m sorry, Dish Network, but we cannot justify spending the extra money on a vast majority of extra television channels that we will not watch.  It’s not worth it paying the higher monthly fees just for a couple of extra channels.

That brings us to the main point of this article.

Just how much money are you supposed to spend to be able to watch live sports in your home?

It wasn’t that long ago when your local networks always had live coverage of your local professional sports teams, unless there was a local blackout for one reason or another.  Depending on the time of the year, your area would have coverage of the baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams.  That was just part of television.

Right now you’re still able to see your local NFL team on one of your city’s local network channels.  The same is mostly true for your local college football and basketball teams as well.  But if you want to see your city’s MLB, NBA or NHL team on a regular basis, then you’re going to need access to a premium sports channel such as Fox Sports.  Having access to ESPN’s channels isn’t enough any longer.  You’re going to need access to even more channels if you’re wanting to see more coverage of your local professional sport teams.

And that’s ridiculous.

You shouldn’t need premium access to see the home games for your local sports teams.  If the games are being played at home, then they should be broadcast on a local channel.  Save the premium channels for those people wanting to see the away games in different markets, or those wanting to follow teams from different cities.

I can’t even remember the last time that I watched the Atlanta Braves or the Atlanta Hawks (not that I’m a fan of basketball, but some nights it’s still good to have live sports on television, even if it’s just as background noise).  On the rare occasion those two teams will be on a local channel, or a featured game on ESPN, but you have to keep searching to find those broadcasts.  It’s not like you can switch to the usual channels on any regular game night and expect to find your local team not being broadcast exclusively on Fox Sports.


Last fall we received a promotion to have access to Dish Network’s “Multi-Sport Pack” for a very cheap price.  I believe that we paid only $5 a month (it normally costs $13 a month), and we had it through the fall, the most critical time of the year for football fans.

Considering the title of the package and its impressive number of channels, the package itself was *almost* useless.

The best channel in the package is the NFL Redzone.  Of course, that channel is only best for the first and second round of games on Sundays.  That’s when you have the most action during the day, and it’ll give you looks into all of those games.  The channel is useless on Sunday night, on Monday night, and for the game on Thursday night.  You don’t need the channel when there’s only one football game being broadcast at a time.

The second best channel is the NFL Network channel as you’ll be able to watch the Thursday night NFL game.

The package also includes college sport networks such as the Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Network, but those are mainly good for the fans of the smaller teams in those networks.  The bigger games in those conferences will still be broadcast on the ESPN as well as local channels.  Therefore, the college network channels are almost useless as the main channels still broadcast the better / more appealing games.

I noticed that trend last year when I had access to the SEC Network channel.  We live in metro Atlanta, a hotspot for both SEC and ACC football games.  My college had a great season, and almost all of their conference games were broadcast on either ESPN or a local channel.  There was also great coverage of the other SEC and ACC teams as well.  No problems at all.  So in other words, the SEC Network was useless unless you wanted to watch somebody like Vanderbilt playing against an FCS team.

Who in the world would live in a city like Atlanta and pay for a better package for the purpose of gaining access to the SEC Network during football season?  Between ESPN and the local channels, almost all of the conference games in both the SEC and ACC were available WITHOUT needing the SEC Network.

That’s how it *should* work when it comes to live sports.

The cities should be showing their local sports teams on the local channels.  If you want to watch something special or obscure, then you should pay extra for it.


The bottom line here is that you have too many television networks, and they’re all competing for access to the best sports.

I’ve love to be able to watch the Braves and the Hawks, but I’m not going to pay extra to have access to Fox Sports.  Right now I’m a step away from cutting the cord completely and using a television antenna and streaming options off the Internet.

I’d love to watch IndyCar, but I’m not spending extra money to upgrade to Dish Network’s “America’s Top 200” package just to have access to NBCSN.  The same goes for watching NASCAR and most of the NHL playoffs.  Next year it’ll include extra coverage of the Summer Olympics.

What these networks will discover is that by essentially alienating the fans from their favorite sports, then the fans will just stop watching the sports, period.  This goes double if a certain sport is already on the downslide.

Take a look at the drop in ratings and attendances at the racetracks for both IndyCar and NASCAR.  It’s easy to see that NASCAR has been losing fans for a while (lots of empty sections in the grandstands these days), and IndyCar is barely surviving.

What do you think is going to happen to those sports if part or most of their races are only being broadcast on premium channels?

Answer —- You’ll lose even more fans.  Without the fans, then the sport will die.

You can easily write full-length articles on the failures of both IndyCar and NASCAR, so I won’t get into that here.  The point here is that when you keep the coverage on a premium channel, then you’re going to lose viewers.

Anyway, with all of the premium sport channels, and the extra costs associated with them, it’s frustrating being a sport fan.