Watch the NFL, even if you don’t like football

If you want to get a glimpse into the future of broadcast television, keep an eye on the NFL. What you’ll notice over the next few years are more and more opportunities to access live and on-demand video through their website, NFL.com. Why would the NFL prefer that I watch the game over the Internet, as opposed to watching it on ESPN or Fox Sports? Follow the money, and you will find the answer.

Since I was a young boy watching the Redskins on my black and white tv with rabbit ears (I know, dating myself here), I have had to tune into a major network to see a game. The NFL has managed the teams and players, but the networks have managed the broadcast and advertising. I haven’t looked at any hard numbers, but something tells me that if the NFL didn’t need these networks, they could make some serious money. What if the NFL could sell their own Super Bowl commercials and sponsorship packages? You better believe they have crunched the numbers, and are perched like anxious children waiting for the candy store to open. The day they no longer need the networks will be a BIG day for their bottom line.

Slowly but surely, the NFL will leverage the Internet to loosen the grip of the networks. They want me – and the millions of fans out there – to watch the game on NFL.com, not ESPN. It may take a few years, but there is serious financial incentive to make this happen. Because of the major dollars at stake, the NFL will be blazing a trail that others will follow. Major League Baseball, the NBA, golf, tennis – as broadcasts are delivered over the Internet, and the audience comes directly to the source – MLB.com – to watch their favorite team, there will be less dependence on the traditional broadcast networks. This opens the door for retention of major advertising and sponsorship deals that have traditionally gone to the networks.

The NFL has recently announced the ability of iPhone users to watch live football. In order to watch a live game you must subscribe to the NFL Sunday Ticket from DirecTV with the Superfan upgrade. The NFL is also selling packages outside of the US that lets subscribers watch any game, on-demand, within a few hours of it ending. Fans can watch Thursday Night Football online, with the ability to toggle between cameras, rewind, and pause live play. This is the proverbial “toe in the water” of total content ownership and control.

Here is a video of an interview with Laura Goldberg, the General Manager of NFL.com.

Posted by Chuck Ebbets   @   19 November 2009

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