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Streaming the Super Bowl: The future of football?
The NFL announces that NBC's broadcast of February's big game will be complemented by a livestream on the web
Forget TV: On Feb. 5, 2012, for the first time ever, football fans will be able to watch a livestream of the Super Bowl on their computers.
Forget TV: On Feb. 5, 2012, for the first time ever, football fans will be able to watch a livestream of the Super Bowl on their computers.
David P. Hall/Corbis
W

ings, beer… laptop? Football fans may add the latter item to their Super Bowl survival guide this winter, after the NFL and NBC announced Tuesday that for the first time, they'll stream football's championship game online. How does that affect your Super Bowl party? Here, a brief guide:

Where will the Super Bowl be streamed?
The year's biggest game will be shown on the websites of both NBC and the NFL, as well as through Verizon's NFL mobile app. The stream will feature the Super Bowl broadcast, plus "additional camera angles, in-game highlights, and live stats," says Rachel Cohen for the Associated Press. More exciting, the stream will also host "replays of those always popular Super Bowl ads." The streaming will be provided for free and the game will, of course, still be broadcast on NBC.

Is there a precedent for this?
For the last four seasons, the NFL has provided access to out-of-market games, meaning games not broadcast on a TV network in a viewer's locale, on NFL.com, says Christina Warren at Mashable. And since 2009, NBCSports.com has offered live broadcasts of NBC's Sunday Night Football telecast. In addition to the Feb. 5 Super Bowl — and the continued streaming of Sunday Night Football — NBC will also stream the Pro Bowl and its "Wild Card Saturday" playoff games online.

Why stream?
Streams of Sunday Night Football games are watched by fans who can't access a TV set to view the live broadcast. But NBC says it also gets a ton of viewers who use the stream to complement their TVs, says Cohen. Its Sunday night streams typically average 200,000 to 300,000 viewers, compared to 21 million for the telecasts.

Who does this benefit?
"This is a huge move for sports," says Warren. Already, the Super Bowl is the most-watched television program of the year — last season's Packers-Steelers matchup drew a record 111 million viewers in the U.S. An online simulcast increases that viewership, opening the game up to fans "who may have decided to cut the cord." There is an entire population of people who have opted to watch TV shows exclusively through sites like Hulu and Netflix instead of paying for hundreds of cable channels they don't watch, says Keith Wagstaff at TIME. It's incredibly difficult for those fans to watch live sports, making it "nice to see media companies filling one the biggest holes in online content. Advertisers also benefit from this, as they get additional eyeballs.

Is this the future?
The NFL is at least seeing "the importance of non-traditional markets," says Warren. And the experiment is all-but-guaranteed to work, says Maggie Hendricks at Yahoo. All of the extra features make the streaming service "a football nerd's heaven." What true fan would choose to sit through TV commercials when he "can watch Aaron Rodgers scramble on third-and-two with James Harrison running him down from seven different angles?" Still, says Wagstaff, the "turning point for live sports will come when middle-of-the-road games start getting streamed" instead of just the ones that are so massively popular that "the networks aren't worried about losing viewership."

Sources: AP, Mashable, Time, Yahoo

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