Overreactions from Steelers Nation: Paying for Streaming Platforms

Welcome to my weekly edition of “Overreactions from Steelers Nation” a weekly column where I poke fun at fans, reporters, and so-called experts while trying to figure out if some of these hot takes are real – or just for attention.

Over the last few weeks leading up to and following the 2024 NFL schedule release, there has been nothing but vehement complaining among some fans about the various ways which football games may need to be watched.  This began steadily over the years, with the league exploring more ways to reach more fans.

Back in my day, I’d be lucky to catch a Steelers game on TV while growing up on the wrong side of the Ohio and Pennsylvania border. Due to regional broadcasting rights, my local Ohio TV stations only carried the Cleveland Browns. I would catch a Steelers game every so often when they played on Monday Night Football, or when the Browns weren’t competing in the same Sunday TV window at one or four o’clock.

When I couldn’t watch, I was remanded to using my transistor radio: which wasn’t the end of the world. (Yoi! If you know what I mean.) Heck, Youngstown, Ohio didn’t have a FOX station when they took over the NFC slate in the mid-90s! If the Steelers played there, I was out of luck too.

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When ESPN started to exclusively broadcast Sunday Night Football games I ponied up for DirecTV. If it wasn’t for that dish or cable, ESPN wasn’t available OTA or “over-the-air” (i.e. free via antenna) to anyone. You were going to miss the Sunday Night games that were exclusive to that network.

Then another revelation was created: the NFL Sunday Ticket package. You could watch every game on Sunday over satellite for a small fee. It became the standard for displaced fans who didn’t have the luxury of living within the range or having a regional OTA carrier of Steelers games.

However, technology quickly changed how the league distributed its games. With the spread of broadband Internet, a shift to streaming video would begin within homes. Cellular providers, such as Verizon, would offer NFL Mobile: every game at your fingertips – just like Sunday Ticket – but only for small screens.

The NFL would offer similar options, such as NFL Game Pass, which provided replays of games; they could not offer live games, due to their contracts with DirecTV and Verizon. However, those contracts would slowly reach their expiration as more and more streaming video providers would popup online and vie for live sports content.

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Exclusive streaming games aren’t a new thing. A few years ago, Yahoo! became one of the first web services to stream an exclusive NFL game via their platforms. Then, after airing games on a combination of NFL Network and FOX over the years, the league announced Amazon Prime would be exclusively streaming Thursday Night Football games. DirecTV would also lose the Sunday Ticket offering starting in 2023 to streaming provider YouTube TV.

More games would find their way to other platforms too, with ESPN+ and Peacock streaming exclusive games during the last two seasons.

With the announcement of Netflix joining the crowd with exclusive Christmas day games, fans have seemingly lost their minds over the implied costs of watching every game by needing these services. The complaining has risen to such heights that ridiculous memes, such as the one pictured below, have surfaced. And these memes are preposterous for a number of reasons, which I will get into further.


I’m sorry, but it’s time to slap these takes out of the thin air which they were derived. First of all, we should be ecstatic there are ways to watch all of the games available and here’s why.

I detailed my long history of struggling to follow the Steelers long before computers could go online. Back then, some fans were lucky if they could read a box score the next day. Yet, here we are complaining about something that’s totally optional in our on-demand society of 2024.

I say optional, because anyone local will never have an issue watching a game. The NFL has built-in rules that ensure the flagship stations in each franchise’s city will broadcast games OTA. Barring a game being blacked out due to low attendance, those fans will never be left in the dark.

The other fans probably weren’t guaranteed to get the game anyway. We republish broadcasting maps from 506sports.com here every week during the regular season. Yet, it never fails that “someone can’t find the game” when Sunday rolls around. These maps, such as the one below, haven’t changed since I was a kid: other than who is being featured on what network at what time.

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On the map above you can see how much of a mess it might be on Sundays when the Steelers, Browns, Bengals, and maybe even the Colts – who are all AFC teams and broadcast via CBS – play at the same time. Back in the day, if you weren’t in the blue area, you were out of luck.

You were also out of luck if you didn’t have cable or a dish, and were outside of Pittsburgh with a game on ESPN Sunday Night Football. No cable? No ESPN. Sorry about your luck.

When Sunday Ticket came along you could watch any of the color areas above with the click of a remote. However, that too came with a cost. First, you had to be a DirecTV subscriber. Having a dish and the equipment setup usually meant signing a two-year contract for at least their basic service. Then Sunday Ticket came as an additional cost.

When I finally ditched DirecTV back in 2018, my regular monthly bill was north of $200. (And I didn’t get every premium channel either!) Without Sunday Ticket, that’s a grand total more than quoted in above tweet. Also, YouTube TV doesn’t require a contract. Can it be expensive? Yes. Is it more expensive than DirecTV? At this time, the answer is likely no.

For those who have been weaned to watching games locally and paying for cable, I can see their point about having to pony up for Netflix, Peacock, or Amazon Prime just to catch one game. But the same rules apply: those services don’t require monthly contracts either. Some can be had for the cost of some fancy morning coffee, so you won’t get my sympathy – especially since I lived that scenario when NFL Network had exclusive games and my cable provider (can’t have a dish in an apartment) didn’t carry that network. (Again, sorry about your luck.)

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I do believe the current setup for the NFL is the wave of the future. I can take YouTube TV, Peacock, Netflix, or the like with me anywhere. I don’t have to keep it for two years and I can pay as I go. That kind of freedom was unheard of in my childhood. Your butt had to be on the couch, or on a barstool, at 1pm on Sunday, or no game for you!

For the convenience provided, I can’t understand why some folks would be opposed to it other than they don’t like change. Yet, at some point, they had to change. If you never lived near Pittsburgh, how were you watching games before? Did you change from radio to satellite dish? Did you change to Sunday Ticket? Did you follow the MNF games from ABC to ESPN? Or TNF from NFL Network to FOX and back, then over to Amazon?

If you answered yes to any of these, then the fearmongering is over nothing. Local folks will get their games free. Non-local folks can still get highlights and box scores free too. They’ll see the occasional primetime game also.

It’s nice knowing you can see whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you want to. So long as I know where I can find the game. (Be sure to check your local listings!)

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