The right to broadcast Thursday night National Football League games is coming up for auction, and many are hoping for a streaming service to snag that deal. TV is shrinking, with cord cutters becoming more numerous, and the main thing missing from a non-cable or satellite entertainment system is NFL football. As re/code points out, “the biggest thing on TV is the NFL,” something that has only been streamed once so far.
How likely is the NFL to embrace a streaming-only option for its Thursday night games, though? Given the lack of technical expertise most of the viewing public has, it may not be a wise move for the league to do that, just yet. There are numerous problems, unfortunately, with allowing for a streaming-only broadcaster to take over the Thursday night matches.
First of all, the mobile rights for those games are already owned by Verizon. If a company were to arrange for streaming coverage of NFL games played in the United States, at least, it would have to prevent those games from being displayed on an iPhone. That probably takes Apple out of the picture, along with most others.
The other problem comes in getting the games on the big screen in the first place. Try having some of your friends or family who aren’t as tech-savvy as you successfully get a decent rendition of a game on the television using the NBC Sports Live Extra app and your Apple TV or Roku box, and you’ll see what I mean.
What seems more likely is that the NFL will increase its streaming presence by way of international games. In October, Yahoo won the right to broadcast a London-based game over the Internet, and re/code reports that the NFL was pleased with how it went. The league has already announced three more games from London next year, as well as a possible fourth event somewhere else. These games could easily be made streaming-only, and such a deal wouldn’t step on Verizon’s toes because the mobile carrier doesn’t have rights to international match-ups.
It’s great to see more sports options appearing on the Internet for viewers, but I don’t see it replacing televised games anytime soon. The technology just isn’t up to speed yet, pun definitely intended, and many viewers don’t have the bandwidth or the technical know-how to make it work well enough for the NFL to put all of its eggs in the Internet’s basket.