There has been quite a lot of buzz about streaming content recently, with a lot of companies stepping up to announce that they are cognizant of its impact and working to assess how to proceed. Then of course, there has been a major crackdown on sites that stream or offer shows illegally, like the major arrest of the megaupload creator. But as one of the most watched events to come out of your television, it looks like the Super Bowl is acting as a bit of a catalyst for change.
Take, for instance, that the U.S. has seized 16 illegal streaming sites that give users access to sports events. The US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, took a hard line to the issue, stating that “These websites and their operators deprive sports leagues and networks of legitimate revenue, forcing spectators and viewers to bear the cost of this piracy down the line.” Maybe he’s right. But fans should be given the option. The NFL has a lot of power and they are certainly flexing their muscles. Last year, 111 million people watched the Super Bowl. That’s a lot of muscle.
But this year also marks the first time that the game will be streamed online and through mobile devices. Both NBCSports.com and NFL.com will be streaming Super Bowl XLVI, and you can also watch it on your phone with the Verizon NFL app. And they are doing this for free? The reason is actually pretty simple. So many people watch the Super Bowl that the small amount of people (about 200,000 – 300,000 on regular Sunday streams) that choose to watch it online barely effect its television broadcast.
The result is going to be some really interesting data on current state of affairs for the television industry. With Netflix, YouTube and Hulu beginning to offer original programming, and with some shows like Community doing even better online then they do on cable, we are clearly overdue for some sort of paradigm shift. Fortunately, it looks as if television networks will not go the way of the RIAA and alienate their consumer base by stringently adhering to an outdated model. This Sunday will most certainly be a determining factor in understanding the trend away from traditional cable television, and how exactly to deal with this transformation.
If a TV program as big as the Super Bowl can offer a simple alternative to traditional options, then maybe other networks will start to see the advantage. The stream on NFL.com will allow fans to change camera angles and give them access to commentary and connect to other fans through Twitter and Facebook. Oh and you can pause and rewind to create your own instant replays. This kind of interactivity is not only enabled by the Internet, it is thoroughly encouraged. And this kind of spectator involvement can easily be adapted to any kind of show, with simple things like behind-the-scenes footage or even a sort of choose your own adventure type show where you are somewhat in control. At the very least, connecting shows to social media applications can allow audiences to discuss, share and grow.
Needless to say, there are lots of important changes coming to television. But even more important, you can watch the damn Super Bowl from your computer. That’s pretty huge.
For those not included in the 111 million viewers, the Super Bowl is this Sunday, Feb. 5th at 6:30 ET. You can watch it online at NFL.com or NBCSports.com or watch it on your mobile device using the Verizon NFL Mobile App.