In a historic move, the NFL will broadcast a regular season game later this year strictly over the Internet.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that the league will stream the Week 7 Jacksonville vs. Buffalo game — played in London on a Thursday — online only. With the exception of local over-the-air viewers in Jacksonville and Buffalo, the action won’t be available on a TV from a cable network.
The WSJ noted that the NFL has yet to decide what company — Facebook or YouTube, for example — will stream the game. That’s one reason why Re/code’s Peter Kafka said that fans should not expect the league to replicate this online-only model in the near future and treat next season’s Jacksonville vs. Buffalo game as a trial.
“But my hunch is that the NFL’s real intent here isn’t to take the games away from TV, at least in the short-term,” Kafka wrote. “Instead, I think it would like to have more credible buyers for those games, so that CBS or any other TV network that buys them has a reason to bid up the prices. CBS is already paying around $300 million for this year’s games.”
That’s makes sense given what NFL Executive Vice President of Media Brian Rolapp said at a media event touting the NFL’s adoption of technology in Seattle this past September. While Rolapp addressed the increased use of mobile devices — 60 to 70 percent of fans are looking at another device when they’re watching a game — it’s clear that the priority remains on the tube for live games.
“TV is still the most effective way to deliver our game,” Rolapp said.
Despite the rise of the second screen and people streaming sports online, Rolapp added that the NFL has more live television viewers than ever and noted that “the report of TV’s death has been greatly exaggerated.”
Still, it’s worth noting that the NFL is testing ways to stream live games over the Internet, especially as more people cancel their cable subscriptions with the bevy of streaming options becoming available. This is a pattern followed by other sports media giants like ESPN, which is selling live online video subscriptions for the Cricket World Cup this year.
In related news, the NFL today suspended its old TV policy that would blackout games in local markets when a minimum threshold of purchased tickets was not met.