The NFL and NBC garnered a lot of attention yesterday with news that the Super Bowl (along with the Pro Bowl and two Wild Card games) will be streamed online for the first time, and made available to Verizon's mobile subscribers. I'll admit, when I first read the news my reaction was "that's pretty cool!" But when I thought about it for another moment, my feeling changed to "so what's the big deal?" Maybe I'm being a skunk at the picnic, but I'm guessing some of you may have had a similar response. Why?
While it is a milestone of sorts for online video, in reality because the Super Bowl is the biggest appointment television event of the year, there isn't much new value to viewers from making it available online too. It's important to remember that those billions of views online video racks up each month occur because of the incremental - or in come cases transformational - value that it provides. Look at the success of some of the biggest video players today - YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, VEVO, Facebook, etc. What they and others all have in common is that they deliver thing(s) not currently possible on TV - massive choice, convenience, control, community, sharing and interactivity.
It's true that the streaming Super Bowl will offer some of the engaging features that NBC's Sunday Night Football Extra's streaming experience does, but it's hard to imagine all of them, even combined, will be so compelling as to draw viewers away from the TV. That's been the case with SNF, which gets only 200,000-300,000 viewers compared to the average 21 million who tune in on TV. This is where I think the NFL and NBC partially missed the boat yesterday. By not identifying anything new or truly distinctive for Super Bowl streaming, they didn't create a call to action for viewers to try it out, in addition to or instead of TV. As a result, most average viewers' reaction is probably along the lines of "why do I need that?"
Other sports events like the Olympics, March Madness, PGA golf have all benefitted because they are partially played during weekday or non primetime hours. The Super Bowl on the other hand, has been well-crafted to be the biggest TV event of the year. If the NFL and its broadcast partners want to make it an online success as well, they will need to be much more creative in the future.
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