[opendtv] Game Changer: NFL Bets Big on Streaming Mobile TV

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2013 11:10:40 -0400

Verizon is stepping up with a major expansion of its deal with the NFL to 
deliver NFL games to Verizon subscribers. The existing service costars $5 per 
month, but the larger cost may be for wireless bits - a game can consume 400MB, 
double what I am paying for per month at the moment…



Game Changer: NFL Bets Big on Streaming Mobile TV
Jul. 1, 2013by Franklin McMahon in Broadcast Engineering Blog

In one of the biggest indications that TV is changing as an industry, Verizon 
has committed to paying $1 billion for rights to air NFL games over its 
customers' smartphones. Viewers' habits are causing a shift in where and how 
sports content will be viewed in the next few years, and we can all learn 
something from the NFL’s game plan on how to step ahead of the curve. 
Here in the United States, we’re actually a bit behind other countries in 
relation to live television over mobile. Other parts of the world, and dozens 
of other providers serving to smartphones and cell phones, put much more 
emphasis on pushing out live TV as opposed to offering items as a download 
after the fact. The U.S. may be starting to catch up however. The Dyle 
initiative, which is a consortium to provide branding on devices to signify 
they're capable of receiving live OTA TV signals, has made some progress, but 
not as much as everyone has hoped. Cable and satellite companies are creating 
their own apps, which stream dozens of live TV channels, but the catch is you 
must also be a subscriber to that service to watch.These steps are positive 
moves forward, but also are somewhat fragmented — Limiting you to a specific 
region or content or a specific provider of programming. Options such as Aereo 
offer a bit more flexibility, live TV streaming to portable devices, but the 
company has got a long way to go to become truly mainstream in many larger 
markets, and doubts do crop up when the topic of scaling up to millions of 
viewers begin to be discussed. 
The NFL has a plan, at least concerning sports coverage. Starting next year, 
Verizon will increase its already substantial coverage of live NFL games 
streamed to smartphones with a focus on Sunday afternoon games. Right now, 
Verizon shows games from Monday, Thursday and Sunday nights, but the biggest 
chunk of playtime is actually on Sunday afternoon, where a dozen or so games 
are played across the country. This is the day customers want, and this is the 
content that is the majority of this billion dollar deal. Verizon has a current 
four-year deal in place, set up in 2010 for $720 million. This new deal will 
bring the valued Sunday games, and Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay the NFL 
$1 billion over the course of the next four years. In addition to games, 
viewers on mobile devices will also be able to watch the league-owned channel 
NFL Network, the NFL RedZone show which collects and show scoring plays from 
the day's games, and most importantly, the Super Bowl, carried live right on 
their smartphone. 
What is most telling of this deal is how the NFL is beginning to define its 
future, with a clear focus on mobile TV. Traditionally, sports organizations 
have given exclusivity to major cable, satellite and broadcast partners such as 
FOX, NBC Universal, News Corp, ESPN, Comcast, DirecTV, CBS and others. In 
recent years the ability to stream NFL content to portable video devices, 
except for smartphones, has been included in these partner deals. The only 
exception was that streaming could not take place to a phone device. The NFL 
smartly kept this option separate, opening up the door to negotiate a 
completely different deal, for the same content, with major phone providers. 
Verizon and the NFL came to terms a few years back, and this current deal only 
escalates the commitment. 
The National Football League are also demonstrating a commitment to mobile TV 
on phones while also keeping the deal separate from broadcast. Their stats show 
no cannibalization from broadcast, meaning increases in mobile viewing are not 
showing a decrease in cable and satellite viewing as far as the NFL is 
concerned. And Verizon has a very key marketing advantage to sports fans, 
offering the best smartphone NFL package around. 
All the news is not good though. Verizon and other companies such as AT&T have 
been working hard on moving customers from unlimited plans to data capped 
plans. So the more network bandwidth is used, such as LTE and 4G, the more the 
customer would need to pay. Football fans could easily burn through almost 
400MB just watching one three-hour game. Multiple that times several weekly 
games and consumers could bump up against their limit, or have to move to the 
next largest tier. Customers could switch to Wi-Fi, but that negates the 
convenience of watching on mobile, or say watching the game on the road, in the 
back seat of a car or in a park. 
Clearly some things have to be ironed out. And with some other providers now 
focused on marketing unlimited bandwidth, who knows, the pendulum could swing 
the other way, and unlimited bandwidth may be next year’s big selling point. 
Something the NFL would be quite happy with. In any case, the bigger news is 
that the NFL is focused on mobile TV now, and this new deal signifies a major 
commitment. A commitment to Verizon, a commitment to fans, but most 
importantly, a commitment to the changing face of television, and how we will 
be watching sports programming now, and into the future. 
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