The NFL and NBC today announced they'll stream the Super Bowl, two wild-card playoff games and the Pro Bowl live online, as well as to Verizon mobile phones.
The games will be free to view online and won't require that viewers be subscribed to a pay-TV service.
The streams will be available at NBCSports.com and on NFL.com. Viewers will be able to watch the game online in HD, access DVR-style controls and select additional camera angles. They'll also get access to in-game highlights, live statistics and other interactive elements.
It won't be the first time an NFL game has been streamed live online; NBC and the NFL have been streaming Sunday Night Football games since 2008 with SNF Extra. College games, including this year's SEC matchup between Alabama and LSU also have become more commonplace. NBC said its Sunday night games average 250,000 viewers, a drop in the bucket compared to the 21 million viewers who watch games weekly on TV.
But the Super Bowl, a game that drew 111 million viewers last year, is an order--or two--of magnitude bigger.
"Whether it's just for a quarter if somebody has to run out to the store to get something they forgot, now they can stay connected to the game," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy and development, told The Associated Press. "With such a big television audience, it will be interesting to see the expanded reach."
And, said Rick Cordella, vice president of NBC Sports Digital Media, the network and league aren't worried that streaming playoff games and the Super Bowl might hurt ratings.
"The playoffs are appointment viewing," he said. "People schedule their day around it."
NBC and the NFL say streaming the games may even boost viewership, since the online option adds more camera angles and features for viewers to play with, and it adds an opportunity to use social networks.
On the mobile side, only Verizon subscribers currently are in line to get the streaming option, which is being delivered on Verizon's NFL Mobile platform.
The Super Bowl is Feb. 5 in Indianapolis. The game is annually by far the biggest attraction on television, with last season's Packers-Steelers matchup drawing a record U.S. audience for any show, with 111 million viewers.
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