The Super Bowl - from Dream On to Stream On

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This Sunday’s Super Bowl, the 47th, will mark a major milestone in the evolution of live sports beyond traditional broadcast TV, as it will be only the second SB to be live streamed to the wired masses, but the first to be delivered to wireless devices.

That fact portends to shatter last year’s audience mark of 2.1 million viewers – a record for live streamed sports events according to the league.

Unlike many past streamed sports events, the entire gamecast will be delivered (plus extras) – not just highlights, real-time scores and news updates. This past summer featured the first full live streaming of all 32 Olympic events to viewers.

The key here is how the parties doing the streaming will generate revenue from the effort beyond offering it as an extension to those advertisers spending millions of dollars for a broadcast TV commercial.

With an anticipated audience in the millions, the doors seem open to new monetization efforts.

The NFL says live coverage from CBSSports.com and NFL.com will come from CBS’ TV coverage of the games. Complementing that stream, it promises, will be “a number of extra features to enrich the viewing experience including additional camera angles, in-game highlights, live statistics and other interactive elements.”

The stream to mobile devices will include all the same ads as the broadcast TV telecast as well as the halftime show, according to a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. This makes the mobile reach an extension to those who have paid big to be part of the annual event.

Super Bowl advertising has evolved to the point where the ads are often more compelling than on-field play. It will be interesting to hear the big spenders’ take on reaching a sizeable mobile audience.

Going Mobile

You’d think reaching mobile devices would be table stakes for live streamed sports today. It will be in years to come after for the Super Bowl thanks to Verizon Wireless, proving that where there’s an app, there’s a way.

Verizon Wireless has already found a way to monetize Super Bowl streaming to select wireless devices by pushing an app and $5/month subscription service you need in order to view the event and the trimmings. NFL Mobile from Verizon lets users view much more in the NFL than the annual Super Bowl.

A similar tact was taken for last year’s multi-week March Madness college basketball tournament.

The app lets users view NFL games throughout the regular season en route to the Super Bowl, provides access to content on NFL Network and the NFL RedZone, as well as enabling management of fantasy football teams at NFL.com. Users also have access to an array of video-on-demand programming.

Prior to the games, customers can use NFL Mobile from Verizon to keep up to date with breaking news, highlights, video on demand and live NFL Network coverage available on an array of smartphones, according to the operator, which added that NFL Mobile from Verizon is available exclusively to Verizon Wireless customers.

For more information about NFL Mobile from Verizon, including how to purchase the app and a list of compatible devices, visit www.verizoninsider.com/nfl.

Beyond Smartphones

With their far larger, higher-definition resolution and portability, tablets are the next frontier for live-streaming the Super Bowl, and other live events that haven’t yet reached this fast-expanding constituency.

But with great opportunity comes great challenges for all parties in the streaming video ecosystem. Do they approach monetization from a broadcast TV model, where sponsorships and ads have long ruled, do they come at the issue from a mobile device perspective, or a blend of both?

The NFL didn’t detail its revenue strategy with NBC for the event last year. But with wireless in the mix, you can bet it’s a work-in-progress. Extend that to tablets and the opportunities seem endless. Sponsorships can work and are time tested. But that should be the jumping off point, not the destination on the road to revenue relevance.

Interestingly, NFL Mobile app works on select tablets as of late last month, but Verizon Wireless only has the rights to stream NFL games on smartphones. Look for this to change.

Last year, the NFL claimed 2.1 million viewers watched the Super Bowl live stream on NFL.com and NBCsport.com. This year, the partner is CBS, with the added mobile option thanks to Verizon Wireless.

Enjoy the show. And stay tuned for the off-the-field results.




Edited by Braden Becker
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