by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
football, streaming


And Away We Go: NFL Wants All Thursday Games To Be Streamed Next Season

from the its-beginning dept

We said the trickle would eventually become a waterfall, and it appears to be happening. As cord-cutting continues unabated, the last strand keeping the cable television cancellation orders from avalanching in has been access to sporting events. But what began a ways back as a couple of leagues experimenting with stream offerings has more recently seen teams and leagues look seriously at the future of broadcast deals and how to wedge internet streaming into them. The king of the professional sports leagues is, of course, the National Football League. You may recall that the NFL experimented earlier this year by offering one of the worst games being played overseas only via streaming on Yahoo's site. Well, while the viewership numbers didn't mirror a television broadcast, pretty much everyone that matters realized that the 2.5 million viewers per minute that Yahoo's stream generated was a big win for the first ever streamed-only NFL game.

But perhaps even I underestimated what a success it was in the NFL's eyes, because I didn't expect them to begin immediately exploring full-streaming broadcast options for every Thursday Night NFL game as early as next season.

The occasionally maligned TNF is still a big moneymaker for everyone involved. CBS is paying $300 million this year, and doesn’t even get to broadcast a full slate. (CBS produces all 16 games, but NFL Network airs the final eight.) The ratings are great, and consistently up from previous years. And yet, Thursday night seems like the place for the NFL to experiment. Unlike all its other long-term TV deals, the NFL has been going year-to-year with TNF, and the bidding for the next contract, just opening now, is for a one-year deal with a league option.

But here’s the really interesting part:

The league also sent RFPs to several digital companies, like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon, to stream the entire Thursday night schedule on a non-exclusive basis, sources said. The league’s initial plan would have the digital streams serve as a simulcast of the television production — with the same ads and in-game production features.
What's interesting in this is that whoever is streaming the game would be simply rebroadcasting it over the internet, rather than having to sell separate advertising content. That would be both useful and limiting for the stream-provider. Useful, because it avoids the annoyance of repetitive ads due to low inventory, but limiting in that it limits how the stream-provider can monetize the stream.

But what the NFL's interest in streaming should really do is strike fear in the heart of businesses that have been burying their heads in the sand when it comes to cord-cutting, because wider sports streaming is going to hasten the pace.

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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 18 Dec 2015 @ 12:14am

    "The league also sent RFPs to several digital companies... on a non-exclusive basis"

    That's the interesting part here, in my mind. Not forcing exclusivity, and the gouging/access problems/piracy encouragement that usually entails seems rather forward-thinking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 6:30am


      It's almost like the NFL wants to make money or something by being forward thinking and utilizing technology. What a novel concept.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 5:32pm

        Re: Re:

        It's almost as if they can see the future right in front of their face. It shouldn't be news, and yet here we are because of the drag employed by the legacy entertainment industry.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 12:30am


    Have a good trip.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 18 Dec 2015 @ 12:45am

    Efficient Coding.

    With efficient coding, televised sports are not very high speed data. Everyone already knows what the grass looks like, so there is no need to retransmit it. Ditto the ball. Ditto the uniforms. All of the picture which need to be transmitted are the movement coordinates, which would probably be somewhere in the kilobit range. This means that it will be very easy to transmit sports to cellphones. There are lots of ways to push out a kilobit-range signal to the audience, and bypass cable television networks altogether. The coordinate signal could probably be broadcast on an AM radio station, or something like that, and sports enthusiasts would buy a little box, a digital AM data receiver, which plugged into their Ipads, instead of using up their download allowances. Cable's comparative advantage, from a technical standpoint, is probably Skype or similar services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Glenn, 18 Dec 2015 @ 1:06am

      Re: Efficient Coding.

      Funny. In reality though, NFL streaming [anything] is just another good reason to get off the Internet entirely.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 4:40am

    never understood the exclusivity

    If you have a popular product, why only get paid by 1 distributor (CBS on Thurs.), or 2 (CBS & Fox) on Sun., or 3 total(ESPN on Mon.). Make deals with as many distributors/channels/streamers as possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 5:48am

      Re: never understood the exclusivity

      Because they can maximize their broadcast revenue and minimize their advertising expense by providing an exclusive deal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 8:13am

      Re: never understood the exclusivity

      Depends on the contract offer(s). Using your examples CBS & Fox may have offered the highest price in exchange for exclusivity. No exclusivity, no deal. And all of the broadcast networks make similar offers.

      Also I don't know about the NFL but other leagues allow the local teams to contract with local stations to broadcast games that are not selected for the national or super-regional broadcasts. I'm old enough to remember when the NBA was only on CBS (then NBC) and local TV, and the local TV rights were restricted to away games. Thus you could count on between 30-40 games per season not being on TV at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PRMan (profile), 18 Dec 2015 @ 10:21am

        Re: Re: never understood the exclusivity

        Hockey was the first to broadcast nearly all games on the RSN. Once that happened, the NBA had to follow suit pretty quickly because they are head-to-head competitors.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    john Katos (profile), 18 Dec 2015 @ 6:00am

    Would the streamers get the local commercial break time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Melkemind (profile), 18 Dec 2015 @ 8:01am

    Location-based ads

    I'm surprised more streaming sites aren't taking advantage of the dreaded "location" feature (or bug, depending on your perspective) in browsers so they can serve up region-specific commercials the way that TV companies do. That would eliminate the need for having generic Internet-only ads that replay several times throughout a broadcast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2015 @ 8:41am

    And Amazon was selling all those 7" tablets for 35 around Black Friday and have just set up optional addon subscriber packages for Prime users. I bet an NFL add-on for Prime would help sell megatons of NFL merchandise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 19 Dec 2015 @ 11:50pm

    From Broadcast Television to Ipad.

    There is one very important book that you should read as "deep background," concerning television sports. This is: James A. Michener, _Sports in America_, 1976. The kinds of questions Michener asked about sports were things like who watched them. For example, college football has a significantly different audience sociology from pro football. College football involves things like homecoming parades and tailgate parties(+).

    There are certain points which can be applied to electronic media. Even if one assumes that everyone has cable television, cable television is not set up for mobility. It insists on everyone being at their assigned place, as defined by the cable company. The classic form of sports-watching with an Ipad will be while doing something else, which requires one to be somewhere else, such as at work. The assumption which cable was operating under was that cable television would be feeding football games-- preferably in high-definition format-- into big-screen televisions in living rooms, so that groups of young men could sit on sofas and drink beer, and cheer noisily. This is all based around the assumption that everyone works nine-to-five. The cable company assumes that there is a certain time of day for children's programming, a certain time of day for stay-at-home housewives programming, a certain time of day for young men's programming, etc.

    Well, the economy isn't organized that way, anymore. It is organized on a contingent/temp/graveyard-shift basis. Ipads have taken off because they have a good fit for the way most people, especially young people, live nowadays. An Ipad is for watching sports, somewhere in the world, while you are clerking on a convenience store on the night shift. Depending on your hours, you might wind up following Indian Cricket. Another interesting book is John Bowers, _In the Land of Nyx: Night and Its Inhabitants_, 1984. Bowers develops the notion that night is a frontier. For example, you can often get a job on the graveyard shift when day positions are closed. Or you can go to night school, either because you need to work, or because your credentials aren't good enough to get into day school.

    (+) Here is a poem of mine which I think captures some of the distinctiveness of college football.

    Little Girls and Football (*).

    Football is conventionally a boy's game/ being rough and tumble/ a way to get hurt/ and among men/ it can be a deadly sport/ but up to a certain age/ girls play football too.

    On a morning before a football game/ in the bright sun of a clear, crisp day/ a little golden-blonde girl, no more than four/ tomboyish in a blue windbreaker/ played football with her father, on the edge of a field/ where deer had played the previous night/ She rolled over the ball in somersaults/ and came back to her feet again/ over and over again, enthusiasm unimpaired/ loudly giggling all the while/
    Playing like nothing so much as a small bear!

    At noon, in the midst of a tailgate party/ a somewhat older girl, raven-haired/ with a face like a fashion model/ played with her three older brothers/ Three older brothers and a father/ to flutter her eyelashes at/ and only one mother to scold her./ When the ball came her way/ she did not strive overly to catch it/ but as it bounced past her/ flung up her hands with a comic expression on her face/ "who, little old me?"

    In the dusk, when most of the fuss had died down/ a young man, sturdy, earnest, a future schoolmaster/ gave a lesson in football to the Indian and Pakistani children in the apartments/ half a dozen of them, boys and girls both/ and none of them much over six/ On the picnic benches sat the mothers, watching/ in the flowered silks of Asia, to lend an exotic touch/ The young man explained learnedly of the proper posture/ the better to throw to a backwards-running receiver/ The children listened seriously, chelas of this American guru/ The young man tossed the ball to a little girl, saying/ "throw it back to me so we can see if you have it right"/ For a moment she regarded him/ with a question in her mysterious eyes/ eyes which, in their strangeness, reached back five thousand years/ and then, deciding that "yes, he would do to fall in love with," (**)/ she squared her shoulders in the correct manner/ and-- precisely-- threw the ball back.


    (*) Observations in an apartment complex adjoining a university campus, near the stadium, and parking lots used for tail-gating during football games. The events of a Saturday in Fall.

    (**) Vide Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975, the English author, not the actress), _Palladian_ (1946), ch. 4

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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