from the hike! dept
I’ve spilled many words on these pages talking about the outsized importance live sports has on the adoption of streaming as a primary entertainment platform compared with traditional cable. While cord-cutting is very much a thing, the vine that terrestrial cable is clinging to keeping it all from falling over the cliff remains live sports. Major sporting leagues in America have typically woven a complicated web of broadcasting rights, whether with local broadcast stations, cable channels, or even with some teams that own their own channels. That complicated web is what keeps blackout rules for MLB.TV in place, as well as what keeps the implementation of true streaming of everything impossible.
Still, even with some problems that exist, MLB.TV remains the gold standard for sports streaming. Especially when compared to what the NFL is doing. Here, not only do the legacy broadcasting rights get in the way, but so too does the fragmented streaming rights the league is working up. Thursday Night Football will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime. The implosion of the AT&T and DirecTV merger put NFL Sunday Ticket in play for all kinds of tech giants. And now the NFL has launched a new streaming service to replace NFL Game Pass, called NFL+. The good news is that the new service is cheaper than the old one. The bad news is that it’s still such a limited, complicated mess due to legacy rights deals that it gets headlines such as Ars Technica’s: NFL+ Is Here, But It’s Probably Not What You’re Looking For.
NFL+ replaces NFL Game Pass, which offered more utility but was $99.99 annually. NFL+ costs $4.99 monthly or $39.99 per year. TechCrunch reports that NFL Game Pass subscribers will be automatically moved to NFL+. The new service “offers access to live out-of-market preseason games, live local and primetime regular season and postseason games (phone and tablet only), live local and national audio for every game, NFL Network shows on-demand, NFL Films archives and more,” according to the NFL’s press release.
That “phone and tablet only” bit is the problem here. So you can stream games, but not on your smart TV directly. Instead, you have to watch games on your phone or tablet… unless you go the extra step of casting them to your smart TV. Which, if you can, what’s the point of the TV blackout? Why is streaming the game to an Android phone/tablet cool, but streaming to an Android TV naughty?
Well, because the NFL wants to sell you something entirely different to do that.
The “phone and tablet only” note for live local and primetime regular season and postseason games is the big limitation here. It means it’s not a replacement for the regular broadcasts if you want to watch on your TV. To watch those games on your game console, smart TV, or streaming box, you’ll need something totally different: an NFL Sunday Ticket subscription.
This is as good a time as any to remind everyone that monetary concerns aren’t the only aspect of a transaction cost when it comes to how willing someone is to buy a thing. There is a mental transaction that occurs as well, which essentially resolves to the ease and convenience of making the purchase. The NFL sure appears to be making the mental transaction as costly as possible, even as it reduces the monetary cost of that transaction.
Whether I can stream an individual NFL game will depend on what I’m subscribed to, what device I want to watch it on, live or on-demand, which game it is so I know if I have the streaming service for it, from where I want to watch it, what individual blackout rules are for that game, and on and on.
Or the public can go find an illicit streaming service that carries with it none of the costs, monetary or mental. If streaming adoption is what the NFL wants, this sure seems like a horrible way to go about it.