Comparing the Red Zone Channels

by Ken Fang on September 28, 2009

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to watch both DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel and NFL Network’s RedZone simultaneously. As a subscriber of DirecTV, I get the Red Zone as part of the satellite service’s NFL Sunday Ticket Superfan package. And I can also watch it online as I still don’t have a TV, but that’s besides the point.

If you’re a regular reader of the Fang’s Bites main page, then you’ll know how much I enjoy watching DirecTV’s Red Zone.

This weekend, the NFL provided me with access to a special website to watch NFL Network’s RedZone and I was able to use two computers, one to watch DirecTV and the other to watch NFL Network.

I decided to watch the 1 p.m. ET games to compare coverage from the two channels. Andrew Siciliano hosts DirecTV’s Red Zone. Scott Hanson is the host for NFL Network. NFL Network’s version has been on the air two weeks compared to DirecTV which is into its fourth season.

The purpose of both channels is to show scoring plays and if a team has a legitimate scoring opportunity, reaching inside the opponent’s 20 yard line, they’ll cut in live to either the CBS or Fox broadcast.

As far as content was concerned, both virtually carried the same games at the same time. There were some instances when DirecTV was focused on game, NFL Network was showing another, but for the most part, both channels were showing action from the same game. For example, both channels started with Titans-Jets and Washington-Detroit, switching between both games. I thought for a moment that perhaps the only difference was the hosts, but eventually, I did see different games at the same time.

When there were simultaneous scoring opportunities, both channels went to double boxes, but DirecTV stayed with the double box while NFL Network would go full-screen to whichever game snapped the ball first. And NFL Network would wipe in between the two games. I’m not a fan of the double box even in high definition so wiping full screen between two games is better in my opinion.

Both channels do a good job in finding live action. When one games goes to break, DirecTV does have highlights at the ready to fire.

NFL Network does do a good job in updating scores as games go final. That’s one thing DirecTV does not do well. However, in the waning seconds of the 49ers-Vikings game that was won on Brett Favre’s last second TD pass to Greg Lewis, I felt DirecTV did the better job in following up as the touchdown was reviewed. It aired the referee’s review live. NFL Network only mentioned in passing that the ruling on the field stood.

I also prefer Andrew Siciliano’s hosting style to Scott Hanson who is rather dry in my opinion. Andrew has humor and is snarky, plus he always has a comment on referee Ed Hochuli’s guns. Sure, Scott has only been on officially for three weeks so he hasn’t developed a true style as of yet. However, Andrew knows every player on sight and is very good in transitioning from one game to another. And if something goes wrong, which can happen in 6 hours of live TV, he’s able to laugh it off or give us a humorous aside.

To be honest, a true fan of the NFL should get the Red Zone. For fantasy players and for anyone who wants to see every scoring play, it’s really the way to watch every week. Plus it has rendered the highlights shows obsolete as you have already seen the major highlights. If I had to grade the channels, DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel gets an A. It has had the head start by three years plus Andrew Siciliano is a good fit.

NFL Network’s RedZone gets a B. Very solid for a production that’s been on for just three weeks. Subscribers to Verizon FiOS and Comcast will get a free preview this Sunday between 1 and 4 p.m. so watch it if you have the opportunity.

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