In Super Bowl streaming deal, Verizon scores again

December 20, 2011

What a delightful week this is turning out to be for Verizon. First, archrival AT&T decides it will ditch its $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA (as if they weren’t grinning madly in the halls of Verizon’s Art Deco building down on West Street) and then they get a piece of this NBC deal to stream the Super Bowl.  No doubt, in the greater scheme of things the AT&T news trumps the streaming deal — but every little thing helps in the crazy competitive telecoms world.

Here’s the upshot: For the first time NFL postseason games — including the Super Bowl — will be streamed live online over and and over mobile devices through an app supplied by Verizon.  This is NBC’s deal;  Fox tells us they have “no similar plans” while we’re CBS declined to comment on whether they would do a streaming deal..

The advantage for Verizon is clear: It’s just one more differentiator. (Verizon has really been on a roll lately. Beyond the events mentioned above, they swooped in to buy a ton of cable spectrum for $3.6 billion and made headlines with their plans to take on Netflix with a streaming service).

For NBC, the thinking is they can add an online audience to their already huge TV football  audience.  Joe Football Fan will watch the Super Bowl and all of its $3 million-plus commercials on the big TV screen at the same time he is watching the streaming coverage on his phone or PC, which will include a bunch of extra stuff such as additional camera angles, sideline updates and in-game analysis.  In other words, it will be complementary.

At least that’s the plan.  And  it’s likely to work out just fine for NBC.  When it comes to the Super Bowl, football fans crave all the information they can get, and having access to the game on your mobile phone while your sitting in a loud, crowded living room party would, frankly, be helpful.

There is a risk, of course. Perhaps this is just one more step toward cord-cutting, or allowing viewers to watch their favorite shows without the cost of subscribing to a cable distributor.  If the NFL — the NFL! — is available in real time online, then can every third-rate sitcom be far behind?

Comcast, which controls NBC, has obviously concluded the risk is very small. They’ve been streaming games on Sunday nights and, as the Associated Press reports, their broadcasts haven’t been hurt.

NBC’s streams on Sunday nights typically average 200,000-300,000 viewers, compared with 21 million for the telecasts. The network has seen no evidence it hurts the traditional broadcasts’ healthy TV ratings. If anything, the extra options online may help keep fans glued to the games on their sets.



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