clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bengals 2016 Schedule for Cord-Cutters

About 25% of television viewers don't pay for subscription television, and don't have access to ESPN or NFL Network. What does the Bengals' 2016 schedule look like for them?

Andy Kropa/Getty Images

About four years ago we "cut the cord" in our home, cancelling our subscription television service, and turned to over-the-air broadcast signals for our only source of television. At the time, our cord cutting was somewhat quirky, but has since become a growing trend among American consumers.

According to a study conducted by a subsidiary of TiVo, the percentage of consumers cutting their pay subscriptions is increasing each year. In 2013 6.9 percent of cable/satellite customers cancelled their service. The following year, an even larger percentage, 8.2 percent, cancelled their service in 2014.

These numbers are starting to add up in a big way. The Pew Research Center’s Home Broadband 2015 study found that 24 percent of American adults do not subscribe to cable or satellite television services. Of these respondents, 15 percent were cord cutters, while 9 percent were cord nevers. For young adults, aged 18 to 29, the percentages of respondents rejecting traditional subscription services are even higher. Over 1/3 of young adults do not pay for subscription television, with 19 percent being cord cutters, and 16 percent never having paid for services.

With one out of every four homes rejecting subscription television services in favor of cheaper options such as HULU, Amazon Prime, or Netflix, or even relying solely on over the air broadcast signals, this means a large number of Americans are no longer able to access ESPN or the NFL Network, which hold the rights to two of the NFL’s primetime games every week; Monday Night Football (ESPN) and Thursday Night Football (NFLN).

How the Bengals schedule affects Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers

Most cord cutters and cord nevers do not have access to ESPN or the NFL Network, because those are traditionally carried by the high cost subscription television packages (exceptions such as Sling exist). So for them, only the over-the-air network television broadcasts exist as options to view Bengals’ games. With this in mind, how many of the Bengals’ 2016 games will be broadcast on antenna available stations?

Of the Bengals’ 16 regular season games, 11 of them are Sunday afternoon games broadcast on either CBS or FOX. Each of these games should be available for Bengals’ fans to watch without paying for subscription television.

The Bengals remaining five games consist of four primetime games and one London game. The 9:30 am (EST) London game is broadcast on FOX, which leaves us with the four primetime games.

Thursday, September 29

All Thursday night games are shown on the NFL Network, but a handful of them are available on either CBS or NBC. In the past few years, the Bengals’ games on Thursday night were not among the games available on network television. Fortunately for Bengals’ fans, this year seems to be different. CBS will reportedly simulcast five Thursday Night games, beginning on Week 2. This means the Bengals’ Week 4 matchup with the Miami Dolphins should be available on CBS.

Monday, November 14

All Monday night football games are carried by ESPN. While some ESPN programming can be viewed online via their website, their Monday Night Football content tends to require a cable subscription login. With ESPN missing out on millions of dollars hand over fist to cord cutters, it makes sense that they would not reward them with free access to the programming they spend billions to secure. This game will not be readily available to cord cutters or cord nevers.

Sunday, December 18

Sunday night football games are carried by NBC. Therefore this game should be readily available for those who do not pay for subscription television.

Saturday, December 24

The NFL Network is airing the late-season Saturday night games. Unlike their Thursday night games, these games will not be shared with CBS or NBC. Therefore, anybody without a pay subscription television package will be unable to watch this game.

For cord cutters and cord nevers, only two games will be unavailable. These are the Week 10 game at the New York Giants on Monday night, and the Week 16 game on Saturday night at the Texans on Christmas Eve. Have a Merry Christmas, while the NFL Network takes away your Bengals for the week!

Options for Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers

As I have experienced after spending the last four NFL seasons without access to each Bengals’ game on our television, there are always options . The first of which is to go watch the game somewhere that does pay for subscription television; either a friend or family member, or a local sports bar. The second option which some pursue is one of those shady type of offshore live streaming websites. These come with their own set of unique challenges, and they can be loaded with malware and viruses primed to strike at your computer. The third option is to actually go to the game. But with the two Bengals games off limits to cord cutters being road games, this option has little practical application for most Bengals’ fans.

One final option, which is the least preferred, is to miss the games – at least the video feeds. If you live locally to Cincinnati, you can still get the radio broadcasts of the games, which is better than nothing. And as someone who has resorted to this option at times, I’ll admit I prefer Dave Lapham and Dan Hoard over the network analysts any day. They are much more Bengals-centric in their coverage, and their fandom shows in a good way.

In the long run, a long-term option may be to wait for ESPN and the NFL Network to make their games more accessible to non-subscription viewers. ESPN reported they had lost about 7 million subscribers from 2013 to 2015, down from a high of 99 million to 92 million. With ESPN earning about $6.50 per subscriber, per month, that’s an annual revenue decline of $550M from two years prior.

Even big corporations are not immune to numbers that large. You would expect they would find ways to reach the growing number of consumers who are rejecting subscription television. One path ESPN has set on is offering their programming on Sling, which is probably just the beginning of their attempt to recoup an ever declining audience. The NFL Network has also taken steps to minimize the number of lost consumers by signing agreements with NBC and CBS to each simulcast about half of the Thursday Night Football slate, and recently added Twitter as another outlet to reach cord cutters and cord nevers. All Thursday Night Football games on CBS or NBC will also be streamed (somehow) on Twitter. That should be an interesting development for the money-hungry NFL.