The Super Bowl is as big an annual event as television has to offer, but this year the biggest game in sports is expanding its reach. Computers will join televisions as viewing options for Super Bowl fans.
For the first time ever, the Super Bowl broadcast will be available by online (and free) live stream at nbcsports.msnbc.com. The move is not only a rare piece of fan service by the frequently tone-deaf NFL, but it also puts the league ahead of its major competitors when it comes to using the Internet to its advantage.
Oddly, the real pioneer in this field has been the NCAA, an organization whose name is rarely mentioned on the same page as “progressive ideas.” Nevertheless, college sports in general, and basketball in particular, have been building a major online presence for several years.
Regular season college hoops games (even those broadcast on free TV) are routinely available online, and the NCAA tournament was the first major sporting event to provide comprehensive Internet streaming. By following in those footsteps, the NFL can only add to a fan base that already trumps any other sport in America.
Other pro leagues haven’t yet embraced the same approach, not even the NBA (which could reasonably have followed the lead of its collegiate counterpart). Major League Baseball made things especially difficult for TV-deprived fans, requiring those in North America to wait 90 minutes after the game’s conclusion before they could watch the broadcast they’d paid $20 in subscription fees to see.
Even the most popular sport in America can only help itself by gaining an advantage over its closest competitors. The NFL’s free live stream is going to be a good thing for its revenue stream going forward.