If you’ve been searching and searching and searching for an article comparing the two NFL RedZone channels to no avail, congratulations, because it’s *finally* here. You’re welcome.

Below, I break down the differences between DirecTV’s RedZone Channel and the non DTV version, NFL RedZone.

Background (skip ahead if you know the history and don’t want to hear about how I was able to compare both this season):

There are two RedZone channels. DirecTV debuted RedZone Channel in 2005, and it quickly drew a cult following. NFL RedZone debuted in 2009 and is now available through most cable companies as well as Dish. It is also available as as a mobile streaming option.

Both channels aim to do the exact same thing: show you the most interesting plays live as they happen across all of the Sunday afternoon games. As a team gets closer to scoring, both channels aim to show you the final play or plays from that drive, often putting two, three, or four games onto the screen at one time when multiple games have drives in the red zone. When things are slower, they’ll show you other pivotal moments in games, like fourth down conversions, key defensive plays, or replays of big plays that have just happened.

Over the years, both channels have grown in popularity, particularly for fantasy football players. Additionally, fans who either don’t have a specific team they root for and fans that just prefer to watch just their team have jumped on the RedZone bandwagon thanks to bye weeks, three night games, and two separate viewing windows in the afternoon. This has resulted in many fans just watching the RedZone channel instead of whatever game is on your local Fox or CBS affiliate if your team isn’t playing

From 2006-2017, I had DirecTV and its RedZone Channel. This past year, I relocated to a new place that couldn’t get DirecTV and decided not to spend the money to get the Sunday Ticket, which is required to get the RedZone Channel, so this year is my first year with the newer NFL RedZone.

I’ve always had essentially the same setup during NFL Sundays of one very large TV showing RedZone and then a second TV off to the side showing a game of interest to myself or others watching with me (often flipping to another game during commercials).

Earlier this season, I had a friend who pays for the streaming option of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket opt to watch his team (Steelers) over here. When they are not playing, we’ve often used his streaming account to stream RedZone Channel and compare the differences to NFL RedZone that my cable provider offers.

Pricing/Availability

Let’s start here. DirecTV’s RedZone channel and the Sunday Ticket are ABSURDLY overpriced. You have to pay $400 just to get RedZone Channel on DirecTV. You can’t just get the channel, you have to buy the Sunday Ticket Max package, and that’s what it costs. Shrewd and financially prudent individuals can often negotiate a lower price if they call and threaten to cancel their DirecTV service, but the majority of folks just swallow it and get fleeced.

NFL RedZone doesn’t have a standard list price. The most standard pricing is that to get the channel, you have to add a special sports tier of channels that costs somewhere between $5 and $10 a month. A lot of people already subscribe to those channels, so it’s basically free to them.

If you don’t have cable, you can now stream NFL RedZone on your phone for $5 a month.  From my previous article bemoaning the absurd pricing, it looks like this if you break out the weekly cost:

$2 a week on cable (assuming you have to upgrade a package, if not it’s free), and $1.25 a week for cord cutters. On DirecTV it’s $23.50 a week. DirecTV is basically treating the Redzone channel like it’s Sunday Ticket’s hostage and while many agree to pay the ransom for now, a lot of people are going to walk away.”

Advantage: cost-wise and just distribution-wise, this one goes to NFL RedZone in a landslide

Host

RedZone Channel is hosted by this delightful lad below, Andrew Siciliano.

NFL RedZone is hosted by this delightful lad below, Scott Hanson

Because nobody really has both versions of this redundant channel (99.9999% of all households have one of the other), people generally love their guy. Basically, both have very high approval ratings. But who is the objectively better host? Before diving in, I will say it’s hard for me to imagine anyone else stepping into either of these roles. It seems really hard to juggle everything going on. Plus, there are no commercial breaks, so bathroom breaks and hydration in general must be difficult to manage.

With that said, I’m quite partial to Siciliano, but that might not be fair to Hanson. Siciliano and his production team had a four year head start on Hanson. Additionally, Siciiano’s audience is made up of people who paid $400 to watch as much football as possible. That audience is quite different than the audience Hanson gets. I think it’s because of that audience difference that you get Siciliano being a bit of smartass, mocking play calls, awful plays, and poking fun at other comical things that go on during a Sunday. He doesn’t really have to explain much to the audience, who is theoretically invested enough in the NFL to plunk down a near half G to watch him. He’s concise, funny, and very sharp, keeping you abreast of the games you’re not seeing or explaining what just happened as you join a game that just had some chaos unfold.

Hanson also does that, but he seems to take the long way a lot of the time. There are times where sharper NFL minds get what he’s driving at and you’d prefer him to wrap it up so we can hear the live broadcast of the game we’re now watching. Both him and Siciiano often take over play by play duties, especially when there are multiple games on the screen and they’ll narrate two games at a time. Siciliano just seems to have mastered the multitasking a little bitter than Hanson, who at times will get a bit caught up narrating something (like explaining a possible penalty when it actually it was the other team who committed the penalty, so his analysis was in the wrong direction).

Personality wise, it’s much more subjective. Siciliano regularly relies on snark and wit. Hanson has a bit more energy in his delivery and is perhaps comparable to a Jay Leno type of character, where his energy and personality plays better to a broader audience. I’ve never really seen anyone say a negative thing about Hanson, but my preference is for Siciliano. Talking to our Matt Clapp, he agreed, saying “I slightly prefer the DirecTV broadcast. Siciliano cracks me up with his smart-ass sense of humor and is very football smart, with the ability to identify everything going on throughout these random games at an incredible pace.”

This sentiment was shared by the motley crew of idiots who come over and drink all the liquor I have in my house. We can’t both be wrong.

Advantage: RedZone Channel

What game action they show you

Okay, here it is. I have a major beef with NFL RedZone. They blatantly fake showing you plays and pretending you are seeing them live. They are not. They fake it…a lot.

It’s easy to spot with a multiple TV setup. Something happens on the local game you’re watching, like a long touchdown pass (or another play that wouldn’t be shown on either RedZone channel because the team was nowhere near the red zone). 30 to 90 seconds later, NFL RedZone will usually go “let’s take you to ___ real quick” and then instead of a replay, you’re getting presented what they want you to think is a “live” play where you see the long touchdown pass. Once you realize they do this, it’s not hard to spot.

If NFL RedZone takes you out randomly to a punt about to happen, you can bet your ass it’s going to be blocked, returned, or fumbled. If you’re joining action 70 yards away from the end zone, perhaps a pick six or a long touchdown is coming? Maybe a strip sack. I don’t know why it bugs me other than how obvious it is. You’re not going there live. You want to show me a huge play that already happened, but for whatever reason, a 45 second old replay will not suffice. You want to pretend you had the foresight to flip here randomly and we’ll get the added thrill of being surprised and the actual broadcast call and not a replay summary. It’s contrived, and worse yet, I think it actually hinders you from seeing some game action.

Here is a scenario I’ve seen play out a few times. Let’s say the Rams have a first and goal and the 8 and both RedZone are showing that, and we see a three-yard run that brings up second and goal. While that play happened, let’s say that Josh Allen throws a pick six to the Dolphins and that Miami has decided to go for two after scoring. This is potentially how that would be handled differently on the two channels.

DTV RedZone Channel hypothetical 

During the end of the Rams’ first and goal play, you might see an graphic pop up that would say something happened in the Bills vs. Dolphins game. RedZone Channel does this a lot as a subtle way to say, “hey, something crazy happened in a game we aren’t on. Hold tight for a second.”

But rather then showing you that pick six before the second and goal play for the Rams, RedZone Channel would go “We’ll show you how the Dolphins scored in just a second, but right now, the Dolphins are going for two. Let’s get you there.” If they can squeeze that play in before the Rams’ second down snap, they’ll show it on the whole screen. If it’s close, they’d probably split the screen with the Rams.  After the conversion attempt, they’d show the Rams’ second down play (maybe a score, maybe not) and then would then show you the pick six that led to the touchdown.

NFL RedZone hypothetical 

Under this same scenario, NFL RedZone would wait until the second down Rams play happened (probably so they can set up the faked “live” pick six). Then they’d go “hey, let’s take you out to Buffalo and see if Josh Allen can get this offense across midfield.” and you get the pick six as if it happened live.

Now that it’s been a full minute since that play, and perhaps because the production booth was as locked into the staging the live replay of the pick six, they’d rather move back to live action instead of staging the two-point try as being live. So Hanson would go “Things not looking good in Buffalo, although the Dolphins did go for two and didn’t get it.” Most of the time, you’re deprived from the two-point conversion in this scenario because they had to take additional time to fake the pick six as being live and showing the two-point conversion would take additional time. Doing so would cause a bit of a pileup of action to show you, so they just opt to skip a play like that.

I much prefer the DTV RedZone Channel’s way of handling this. First, we get the alert. That draws my attention to the fact that I’m about to see some unexpected shit. Oooh, then a two point conversion, which by its very nature is always fun to watch, but also bring the anticipation of “so what exactly happened here?”. And then finally, after the coast is clear, I see the pick six in a quick replay that doesn’t include the 10 seconds before or after the play that usually accompanies a faked live replay.

This sequence of events grabs and holds my attention more and also builds anticipation for what I’m about to see. NFL RedZone shows us fewer plays and wants us to think they have a magic crystal ball that allows them to show two or three punts on a Sunday, all of which are either blocked, returned for a touchdown, or muffed and recovered by another team. It’s disingenuous and takes the surprise out of a lot of the plays, because whenever they randomly flip somewhere, you know something of significance happened because they’re faking it and not really showing it to you live.

Additionally, RedZone Channel seems to be more adept to switching games on the fly and making usage of the two, three, or four box screens to show multiple games. Both hosts often will say out loud “let’s add in __ game” or “okay, let’s get that game off the screen” or “can we go to___ to watch that fourth down play”. While both hosts sometimes have to nudge the booth a second time, it seems the RedZone Channel is quicker on the draw, which leaves Hanson with some awkward exchanges where he’s very vocal asking for some switch or change and we get stuck for 10 or 20 seconds where the game mix on the screen isn’t what Hanson or the viewer wants to see, and some action falls through the cracks as they sort it out.

Advantage: RedZone Channel

Production Quality

This is mostly a draw. I’ll start with the obvious in that I loathe Scott Hanson’s desk.

Give the man a real desk! That’s like a podium/desk hybrid.

Both channels have their own halftime shows, which are usually like 90 seconds to two minutes of just highlights. Both shows will give you fantasy updates, injury updates, and fill some of the slower times with montages of things like touchdown celebrations, big hits, bloopers, and so on.

These are both pretty slickly packaged and produced. I’d say RedZone Channel is a notch slicker than NFL RedZone on this front as well. It’s a subtle difference, but similar to a game on different networks, you can tell the difference if you look hard enough. It’s probably the least important factor here.

Advantage: RedZone Channel

Final conclusions

None of this really matters. Almost all households only have access to one of these channels, and both have a very high level of loyalty to the point that most people will argue that whatever version they get is better without seeing the other one. But at the end of the day, the nominal difference between the two channels is not worth the nearly $400 pricing difference between these two experiences. It’s dumb that this redundancy exists in the first place, but perhaps we’ll see the NFL begin to rethink how to better distribute and price their most popular and addictive television asset. We really don’t need two talented people each holding their piss for seven hours each Sunday, but alas, the NFL find a way to squeeze more money out of providers and customers.

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.