This year, viewers who wanted to watch the Seahawks beat the Broncos had a new option: stream the game online. Fox offered Super Bowl XLVIII live streaming on FoxSportsGo.com and the Fox Sports Go iPad app, and viewers were able to load up streaming video and keep track of every touchdown.
Although online sportsbook TopBet recently wrote an article discussing America’s favorite Super Bowl commercials, the irony is that live online viewing of the Super Bowl with the commercials included, likely won’t happen anytime soon.
In a few months, CBS Sports is going to stream the The Masters Golf Tournament online. In addition to watching the golf competition, users will be able to click between different cameras and customize their experience. This is going to be a win-win for both CBS and golf fans.
These types of opportunities would seem like a natural solution for sports broadcasters – just stream sports programming online, as well as on television – except that the online solution isn’t a 1:1 transfer. That is: it’s not as simple as treating a web browser as just another TV channel, or even a TV channel with added options like “choose your own camera.”
How Streaming The Masters is Different
For starters: many streaming sports broadcasts are unavailable to a large percentage of users. As Geekwire notes, streaming sports live on FoxSportsGo.com isn’t available to everybody; “Typically, Fox allows access to the live content only to subscribers of certain cable services — AT&T U-verse, Cablevision, Optimum, Comcast Xfinity, Midcontinent Communications, Suddenlink and WOW!”
That means if you’re on Verizon, for example, you won’t be able to watch games on FoxSportsGo.com unless they make a special exception. (For the Super Bowl, Fox created a “free preview” of its FoxSportsGo.com service available to all internet/cable suppliers, ensuring everyone could watch the game.)
Fans of major sports tournaments, such as The Masters, do have other options if a streaming service does not supply to their internet/cable provider, although they are certainly not recommended. Plenty of underground websites upload or torrent sports programming and make it available for streaming or downloading. This is, of course, an illegal method of watching sports broadcasting, but it is an avenue often taken by fans who are unable to stream the game any other way.
That pesky 30 seconds you can’t live with or without
There’s one more way that streaming sports broadcasting is different from watching it on television: the ads. Yes, the same ads that play on TV do not transfer over to online broadcasts. Super Bowl viewers who watched the game on FoxSportsGo.com did not see the famous Super Bowl commercials that kept other viewers talking long after the game had ended. Instead, they saw a different set of commercials, because Fox negotiated the so-called “digital inventory” ad space separately from the television broadcast.
Unless it’s the Super Bowl, the commercials you watch during the game probably don’t matter.
This may turn out to be an opportunity for media companies like Fox to earn even more revenue by selling two completely different sets of ad space; one for live television, one for online streaming. But the advertisers are unlikely to go down without a fight. If Coke or Ford want to place an ad on national television during a highly popular game, they are unlikely to want to pay extra just to make sure online viewers get to see it too.
Ultimately, the question comes down to one major factor. Do we consider online streaming as an identical way of watching televised sports broadcasting, or do we treat it as something different? The Masters, with its interactive components, is already leading the way towards treating online streaming as something separate to watching the game on television. In fact, it could presage a world in which the most avid sports fans do both: watch the game on their TV and interact with the game on their iPads.
In the end, we’ll have to wait and see.