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The NFL Takes a Baby Step

Posted by Alan at 5:45 PM on July 31, 2010

Not long ago I wrote an article wondering if the NFL would join the media revolution that the other major US sports are already in.

Apparently a couple of recent emails I have received are answering that question and the answer is, well, kind of.

Will they provide a way to purchase games online?  Yes, and No.  Will they provide a way pick and choose what game(s) you want to buy?  No.

This is what they are doing.  First, they are, for the first time ever, providing an online subscription to games.  It’s not A la carte though.  Instead, you have to buy a subscription to all of the games.  And, it’s only for the pre-season.  That’s 50 games for $39.99 and you can sign up here.  And here’s what you will get:

ALL NEW! Watch over 50 preseason games live and on-demand* with enhanced features like Big Play Markers, home and away game radio broadcast*, and multiple-game viewing. Scout for your fantasy team all preseason long and never miss a rookie’s breakout moment or your favorite veteran’s return to the field.

This news was encouraging.  While it didn’t imply that I’d be able to get just my team’s games during the regular season, it did seem to imply that I would at least be able to watch games on my media center PC and not have to resubscribe to my DirecTV service, which I dropped a couple of months ago.

Then I received a second email.  For $99.99 (regularly $129.97) you get the aforementioned pre-season game package and, get ready for it, audio only of regular season games and you can watch video replays of all games, which will be available AFTER the game happens.  Details are here.

Watch over 50 preseason games* in HD with enhanced viewing options. Listen to every NFL team’s official live radio broadcast, wherever you are. Replay every NFL Regular Season game and customize it to your specification – in HD and commercial-free. Enjoy unlimited access to Preseason Live, Audio Pass, and Game Rewind when you buy Game Access.

Well, great.  It’s a step forward, but still far behind the other major sports.  I would guess, at this point, that this is it for the 2010 season.  It’s really not any substitute for their exclusive and pricey DirecTV deal.  And that deal also still requires you to pony up $300.00 for every game – still no team packages for a lesser price.

Basically the NFL still has not learned how to deal with the modern world of online content.  They still don’t realize how much money they are leaving on the table.  How many people could they add to their subscriber list if they added online regular season games?  If they added a team package to their DirecTV Sunday Ticket?  Even the Olympics, that bastion of stodgy, sue-first technophobes, have allowed online broadcast of their events for the past 2 or 3 Olympics.  Maybe 2011 NFL?