For years, viewers have asked how long it would be before we’d see major televised events come online. When it comes to live sporting events, or live events in general, nothing is bigger than the Super Bowl, which every year draws record audiences to its TV broadcasts. Next February, that event will finally be brought online, when the AFC and NFC conference champions battle it out for the NFL Championship.
The Super Bowl, along with the Pro Bowl and other postseason games, will be live streamed for the first time, thanks to the NFL and NBC. (s CMCSA)(s GE) Of course, NBC is no stranger to these kinds of tent pole events. The network has live streamed the last two Olympics, and will stream the 2012 Summer Olympics from London as well. And it has put online every Sunday Night Football matchup — including those that happen in the postseason — for the last four years.
With all that in mind, it’s important to point out that NBC feels totally comfortable with making a live stream of the Super Bowl available, knowing that it’s the biggest TV event of the year. That’s because, based on its ratings for the 2008 and 2010 Olympic Games, as well as its weekly top-rated Sunday Night Football broadcasts, it knows that online viewers generally don’t cannibalize the live broadcast audience for these things. The AP, for instance, reports that NBC typically gets about 200,000-300,000 online viewers, compared to more than 20 million that tune in for the telecast.
When it comes to live streaming sports events, that’s a trend that we’ve seen time and time again, whether it be CBS (s CBS) and Turner’s (s TWX) March Madness on Demand or this year’s live stream of the matchup between #1- and #2-ranked NCAA football teams LSU and Alabama. While they frequently get a fairly significant number of viewers tuning in, they have had little effect on broadcast ratings.
The real question is how big of an event the Super Bowl will actually be online. Since nearly everyone watches the game live, whether it be at home, in a bar or at a friend’s house, it’s not real clear that having a live stream of the big game will change that.
A few more interesting details about the Super Bowl live stream:
- The live stream of all NBC Postseason Extra games, including the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl, will use the same Microsoft Silverlight (s MSFT) player that NBC uses for its Sunday Night Football streams. But an NBC spokesperson left the possibility open for some additional features being added especially for the Super Bowl, which is still six weeks away.
- There will be no authentication for the Super Bowl or other postseason games, meaning viewers won’t have to prove that they’re a cable subscriber to get online access to the matchup. It will be available for anyone in the U.S., but due to rights issues, the broadcaster will block international viewers from trying to tune in.
- Interestingly enough, the online stream of the Super Bowl will have its own set of ads run against it, which will be different from those shown on the TV broadcast. But since NBC knows that the groundbreaking ads brands pay big money for are a big draw for much of its audience, it’ll make those ads available on one feed of the online broadcast as well. And since it has DVR functionality, viewers will be able to back up and watch them over again, just like they would with a DVR.