Looking to drive mobile video streaming upward, Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless has eliminated the $5 a month charge for the popular and newly improved NFL Mobile app and is now making it available to customers on all its service plans.
In addition, the wireless provider is making the addictive NFL Red Zone channel – which features league-wide scoring drive check ins in real time along with bonus game in progress coverage to fill the blanks – available as an add-on for $1.99 a month.
NFL Mobile from Verizon continues to enable customers, preferably with 4G smartphones, to stream the NFL’s primetime games – Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football – and the user’s local market game on Sunday – live.
Pro Sports Streaming
Streaming of live NFL games has lagged other sports leagues because the league has long had lucrative and long-term deals with TV broadcasters that it doesn’t want to undercut or jeopardize. Also, these TV partners broadcast NFL games free, over-the-air, to consumers with antennas. Pro baseball, hockey and hoops don’t have this legacy/revenue generator.
What’s often overlooked is the fact that NFL Mobile is a “cross-carrier” app, meaning it works with other wireless service providers. However, because of an exclusive arrangement, those with Verizon Wireless (News - Alert) can use it to access a list of NFL features and functions, but not for streaming of the live NFL games.
In related news, Verizon is expected to soon launch its long anticipated mobile video service, which will reportedly offer at least some NFL games as part of its programming options. The company started in this direction way back when it purchased the video assets of Intel’s (News - Alert) abandoned TV service and added additional assets and brain trust. Stay tuned.
As you might imagine, every fans wants to watch the NFL and new and different ways, but want it for free or near-free. They prefer sponsors for apps as opposed to advertisements as well. The NFL continues to wrestle with online delivery of live games.
CBS Streams On
In fact, just this week, CBS Sports, a unit of the CBS parent which broadcasts the NFL’s AFC games, announced it will, for the first time, live stream two regular season games this year (in addition to the playoffs and Super Bowl 50) which were live streamed last year.
I know, CBS claims this is free and that more details would be revealed going forward. Defining “free” is akin to solving a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. For now, there’s no charge for the stream and fans need not authenticate (register) with their pay TV package provider to watch it on multiple platforms.
Remember that CBS recently revealed that it will stream the Super Bowl this February and the game multimillion dollar apiece ads, online. The CBS stream of the two additional games this regular season could be ad supported.
It’s unclear if CBS paid for this streaming addition, as Yahoo did for a game it will stream a regular season game in London this fall, or if it was some sort of perk/sweetener for its longtime broadcast partner and live sports streaming pioneer.
The Bottom Line
Sports, especially at the pro level, are arguably the top driver of mobile video consumption. Expect usage to continue to climb as more fans move to 4G phones that provide the viewing experience you really want. The NFL isn’t rushing to make more regular season games available via streaming in North America, but the Verizon and CBS news demonstrate the strategic thinking that will keep usage growing even in the absence of more games to watch.
Finally, the NFL’s reshuffling, re-positioning and enhancements to its 2014 app lineup (to be announced next week) could make things simpler for fans presented with a long list of NFL apps – those in addition to team-created apps and third-party options.
You need to stay tuned (in).