This is the time of year when we become a two-sport TV household. My wife loves tennis and is glued to ESPN’s coverage of the US Open. While I’ll watch some matches with her, I’m really waiting for the NFL season to start Thursday night. But before it does, I had to overcome a viewing obstacle.
We subscribe to AT&T U-Verse, which is in a carriage rights battle with Nexstar, owner of KTVI and KPLR (channels two and eleven) in St. Louis. As always in these situations — including a similar dispute in other parts of the country between Disney and Charter — it comes down to the TV station owner wanting higher fees from cable and satellite companies that provide their signals to viewers. But the providers don’t want to pay more at a time when increasing numbers of consumers are cutting the cord, watching much less linear TV than in the past.
Meanwhile, those stations are blacked out on our system, which means I won’t be able to see NFL games broadcast on KTVI on Sunday afternoons. When we went through this four years ago with the exact same greed war between Nexstar and AT&T, I tried using a digital antenna to pick up the over-the-air signals, but reception at our house wasn’t good enough.
However, a few weeks ago, U-Verse started carrying NFL Network again, and looked like it was promoting a deal to get RedZone, the channel that switches between NFL games for seven hours on Sundays, showing live action of teams in scoring range.
I went to the AT&T website to sign up for RedZone, but couldn’t find mention of it anywhere. So, I called to ask a customer service person about it and she said RedZone isn’t available on U-Verse, despite several channels in the lineup saying it would be. Then she told me in a near-whisper the only way to get RedZone was to subscribe to YouTubeTV, the new distributor for both RedZone and Sunday Ticket.
With that in mind, I signed up for a free trial of YouTubeTV to see if I might become a cord-cutter, too. Not only would I be able to get RedZone, but KTVI isn’t blacked out on YouTubeTV.
Unfortunately, the interface for YouTubeTV is not as user-friendly as U-Verse’s. For example, there’s no way of going directly to the channel I want to watch without scrolling through the rest of them — every time. I also don’t like the design of the cloud DVR options, nor the way the guide promotes shows and channels I have no interest in even after I’ve eliminated them from the listings.
What to do next? It turns out that NFL.com has a streaming service called NFL+ which offers RedZone at a discount — $80 for the whole season. That’s much better than the $400 YouTubeTV charges (on top of the basic subscription), and the NFL app is easier to use on my TV.
NFL+ doesn’t include Sunday Ticket, but it’s better than nothing, so I’ve signed up. It won’t fix the AT&T-Nexstar dispute, but at least I’ll be able to see pieces of NFC games on RedZone in addition to all the AFC games on KMOV (4), not to mention Sunday night clashes on KSDK (5), Monday night contests on ESPN, and Thursday night games on Amazon Prime Video.
The best news is that the US Open ends this weekend, and there won’t be another major tennis tournament until January in Australia, so I won’t have to fight with my wife over who gets to watch our favorite sport on the big living room TV.