There are a handful of high end amenities and utilities that once you use, you can never go back. Nobody makes the decision to go back to dial-up internet, those with air conditioning typically become lifers, and in that same vein once you get a taste of the Sunday Ticket and/or the RedZone channel, chances are that you’re going to have a hard time watching the NFL any other way.

With millions now consuming copious amounts of football via NFL RedZone and The RedZone Channel (for all intents and purposes the same thing), the New York Times ran a nice feature on the popularity of the channels. It was your basic “Hey America, you didn’t know about this? Well let me tell you all about it…” type of feature. 

A lot of the feature was old information repackaged with some fresh quotes, but the part that really interested me was the story about the initial inspiration for the channel. Fox’s Eric Shanks gets the credit for importing the idea from Italy where he was visiting working on a business deal…

“In Italy, Mr. Shanks entered a studio where an Italian channel was producing the show “Diretta Goal,” Italian for “Live Goal.”

“I walk in and there’s a couple of cardboard tables, and there’s eight announcers with headphones on looking at these monitors,” said Shanks, who is now the president of Fox Sports. “It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. I asked, ‘What is going on in here?’ They said it was one channel, with no commercials, and it just cuts around to the best action of any of the soccer matches going on around Italy.”

“I said, ‘Well, how do you know to cut around?’ ” Shanks recalled. “They said a guy raises his hand. And I said, ‘This is absolutely brilliant!’ ”

Behind every innovative idea or concept, there is a great story and rarely do we get to hear it. Without a chance business trip to Italy, who knows if we would have figured it out on our own. While there are certainly national broadcasts on Fox and CBS, at this point the RedZone channels are likely surpassing the audience of the vast majority of regional NFL broadcasts on Sunday afternoons. 

From what I’ve, seen the channels seem to have gone over particularly well with younger viewers, a sign that the two channels likely have a lot more upside and substantial staying power. Given Fox and CBS are losing those viewers, it will be interesting to see how the league continues to rake in billions from the television networks as their share of audience continues to get diluted to NFL Network, the RedZone channels, and mobile viewing experiences.

I’d actually love to head down to see how the sausage is made in regards to the RedZone Channel, but alas, Andrew Siciliano doesn’t return my direct messages anymore. One day perhaps.

Although both channels are not part of basic packages, it’s interesting to note that DirecTV’s version of the channel seems to be doing well selling sponsorships even without having any commercials. In between live game action, there are sponsored segments such as the “player of the day” and so on.

Historically, the likes of FOX, CBS, NBC, and ABC have for the most part lost money on their various NFL deals although they see value in being able to promote their portfolio of programming during live telecasts. That said, you have to wonder if the rise of both channels will be a source of contention in upcoming negotiations given both channels are growing, selling sponsorships, and making money given that they’re not basic cable channels and require subscriptions.

Perhaps this is the reason the NFL decided to delay selling off another 8 game package of games as Fox and CBS were growing increasingly concerned about their audience share being diluted by the NFL Network, RedZone Channels, and mobile viewing options. DVR’s and the NFL blackout rule present other leaks that are hindering optimized live game viewing audience numbers. 

At the end of the day, the RedZone Channels are becoming a must have for any football addict. Regardless of the long term implications for the NFL and its television partners, it’s a truly innovative development in sports media and one we have to thank Italy for. 

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - EIC and CEO at @comeback_sports and @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.