Super Bowl XLVI was one of the biggest online video events of the year, and so it makes sense that the National Football League would bring the Big Game back online again. So today the league announced that for a second year running, the Super Bowl will be streamed online, this time by CBS.
Like last year, the same play-by-play action and game calling that is broadcast on TV will also be available online. This year, it will be streamed on NFL.com and CBSSports.com. Online viewers will have a number of additional features available to them — like live stats and in-game highlights, the ability to check out different camera angles, and other interactive elements.
The online broadcast of last year’s Super Bowl was pretty big for an online event, garnering more than 2 million viewers during the game. But that’s nothing compared to the 100 million viewers who tune in live to watch the game on TV. One of the reasons that the NFL — and CBS — are probably fine with putting the game online is that the online stream isn’t a threat to cannibalize TV viewing.
But having watched last year’s online version of the game, I have a number of questions about this year’s stream: For instance, will CBS require cable subscribers to log in with their cable credentials, as it does with its NCAA March Madness joint venture with Turner? Or will Super Bowl XLVII be free to all online viewers, whether they pay for cable or not? That could go a long way toward determining whether the event will be able to garner the same number of viewers as last year, or if it will be limited by the number of people who know their cable login information.
Another question is whether CBS will stream the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl ads that brands pay millions of dollars for. Last year, NBC’s online broadcast was plagued with a limited number of spots that ran over and over during the event. (One particular ad featuring Rainn Wilson was not only grating, but appeared no fewer than two dozen times during my viewing.) Will CBS repeat this mistake or actually have the Super Bowl ads people want to see online?
In addition to the Super Bowl, the NFL will have streams for NBC postseason games, as well, including its Wild Card Saturday doubleheader and the Pro Bowl. Those games will be available on NBCSports.com and NFL.com.