Sports Geekery

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More Live NFL Online Streaming is on the Way, but in What Form?

Earlier this month the NFL struck a deal with its major network broadcast partners that extends it’s current TV format for the next decade. Considerably less reported was the inclusion of digital broadcast rights for Fox and CBS that will almost certainly bring more live streaming NFL games to computers and tablets.

Awesome, right? While the language of the press releases point clearly to more live NFL games online, it’s not clear yet exactly what for this “Awesomeness” will look like. Or, exactly how awesome it will be. Here is my purely speculative take on what we might be looking at… possibly as soon as next year.

Full Game Coverage or Supplemental Coverage?

The additional live streaming could come in the form of full live broadcasts (finger crossed), or it could come in the form of supplemental coverage of the regular TV broadcast. Supplemental coverage would be (as the name suggests) designed to supplement the network broadcast as opposed to replacing it. This could be delivered in the form of exclusive online-only camera angles and other features similar to the TNT Overtime Extra for NBA on TNT and the MLB Postseason.TV products.

Currently, NBC Sports delivers the full network TV broadcast of Sunday Night Football online via NBC Sunday Night Extra. It includes enhanced features such as additional camera angles, picture-in-picture, and DVR control. The hope is that CBS and Fox will mimic this platform. CBS Sports already live streams it’s network SEC schedule, along with a few other games like Army – Navy, online at CBSSports.com. So, it’s stand to reason that streaming NFL should make for a fairly easy transition.

NBC Sports essentially already offers both options with it’s product, so if the networks do copy the NBC format it will provide the best of both worlds for NFL fans.

What Games will be Available?

It’s safe to say we won’t have free access to every Sunday game. The NFL isn’t going to turn it’s back on the billions that DIrecTV hands over for the exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket. At least not until the contract is up after 2014. The most likely scenario is that you’ll have online access to only the games currently broadcast over free network TV in your area. Fox, CBS, and the NFL will likely setup technology that makes games available based on your IP address, with every other game being blacked out in your area.

NBC Sunday Night Football doesn’t have to deal with this issue since the same game is broadcast to the entire country.

iPad and Tablet Access

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is this access won’t be free. The NFL and it’s partners could choose to generate additional revenue by either adding a yearly subscription fee to access live games via tablet devices, by charging a set fee for an device specific app, or perhaps both. They could also chose to make tablet access strictly supplemental content.

What about Mobile Phones?

This new contract will have no impact mobile phones. That content will remain the exclusive right of Verizon Wireless.

Would you only watch locally broadcast NFL games on your iPad or Android Tablet if they were free? Or would you be willing to pay an extra fee? If so, how much would you pay for an entire season?

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