· Cool Member/Supporter
OTA remains free for another reason and that is the NFL's Broadcast Anti-Trust exemption. This exemption allows the NFL to negotiate broadcast deals and share revenue among all the teams. If the NFL tried to take every game off free OTA television, I suspect Congress would revisit the exemption.OTA was free (and for the most part still is non-subscription) because there was no way to make viewers pay. Networks and stations could sell their viewers to advertisers but there was no mechanism to stop people from watching "for free". Even after the introduction of digital OTA which does allow access control, subscription OTA has not taken off. It may with the next level of digital OTA - but without some unified mechanism to control content I don't see subscription OTA as viable. Even though it does exist in a few places.
OTA broadcasters finally found a way to monetize their content (beyond advertising) when cable companies decided to rebroadcast their signals. Instead of viewing cable rebroadcast as a gift to reach more viewers, they saw it as a way to charge for reception. Once they started charging they didn't turn back and in recent years the networks have required their affiliates to charge for rebroadcast and pass a good portion of the fees back to the network. The networks have also gone the streaming route ... OTA is one transmission of many shows. If you miss it, buy it on demand and either pay by watching commercials or a monthly fee. Got to find some way to monetize their content.
The NFL owns their content, so they only have to worry about paying their content creators (players and teams) and they have something to sell. A good portion of their money comes from selling to OTA broadcasters who are willing to spend a few billion dollars for a single airing of each game. Rebroadcast rights reserved by the NFL. Out of market rights reserved by the NFL. Not a bad scheme to pay the bills.