The National Football League is making a momentous addition to the digital streaming landscape announcing plans to launch a free digital network NFL Now via the Internet. And while the league promises that the service will provide numerous avenues for fans to get closer to the game including original content, highlights, content produced by NFL clubs, NFL Films content, NFL.com & NFL Network content and live events including press conferences, and shows, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development Vishal Shah, who spoke to Time Magazine in a story by Victor Luckerson may have hinted at its long term strategy saying
“Live games are certainly an option for us. It’s really figuring out the right distribution strategy on our end.”
Are Live NFL Games On The Internet A Possibility?
Did Shah give us a hint at where the NFL is really going with this venture? NFL spokesman Alex Riethmiller actually disputed Shah’s statement telling Time that the NFL was” happy with our (the NFL’s) current broadcast and cable agreements”.
Is There Bad Blood Between The NFL and It’s Cable Partners?
There has been a tenuous relationship between pay TV services and the NFL’s cable network. Should negotiations between the league and the cable industry hit a snag in the future could the NFL walk away from a major cable Network like Comcast or Time Warner and chose to put its weekly Thursday night games on the Internet? Could the NFL decide to keep all of its streaming rights instead of letting the broadcasters bid for them? NFL fans may well appreciate a more uniform delivery of games online considering the unevenness of the NFL Playoffs online which saw CBS and NBC deliver all of their games to anyone with internet access and Fox limit the games to customers of it very limited “Cable Everywhere” partners. That arrangement excluded millions of fans who either did not have cable or who were customers of companies like Time Warner which was not included. If The NFL could make more money going directly to the public what would prevent it from putting together internet based game packages resembling its current deal with Direct TV for Internet delivery of all NFL games? As connected TV becomes more of a norm in American households we could see a revolutionary change in the content delivery model.
The NFL Would Not Be The First To Walk Away From Cable
The WWE recently announced an online based network which eschewed the traditional cable distribution model with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon saying that the terms for carrying a network over the pay services were too restrictive. The sports entertainment company will be offering all of its monthly pay per view events along with original content and an archive of past events for 9.99 per month across a swath of connected devices, computers and mobile devices. The NFL knows good and well that it has one of the most valuable if not the most valuable properties on television. In an era where NFL games are blacked out in major media markets due to disagreements between broadcast networks and the cable giants, an Internet based option may become a more dependable distributor or at least an alternative should such an impasse arise in the future.
How Will Fans Be Able To Watch NFL Now?
The service will be available through apps on Windows, IOS and Android along with the XBOX One. Verizon will also include the service in its NFL package. There has not been an announcement as to whether other devices like Apple TV, Roku or the Google Chromecast will have access, though conceivably the service could be viewed on Apple TV via AirPlay or Mirroring.
For full details of the announced features of the channel see the story on the NFL’s official website here
More For an Additional Fee
Besides the many options offered as part of its free service the league also said there would be a monthly paid service dubbed NFL Now “Plus”, which according to multichannel.com will include everything produced by NFL Media and NFL Films’ in a digital library. We think this service is going to grow in size and scope. Just how much money could the NFL charge for streaming its games online? There is not another sports property with the clout and power of the NFL. If or when the league decides that it stands to make more money by streaming NFL games live than allowing other networks to do so the whole the broadcasting world could change forever.