Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Watch the NFL on the Web, Legally, for Free

Remember when it seemed like this year’s pro football season could be canceled or delayed because of a fight between millionaires and billionaires?

Phew! The NFL kicks off tonight, on schedule, on NBC, when the Saints play the Packers. Which means that some of you, for various reasons, are going to watch it on the Web.

And you can! Even better, you can do it legally, for free: Comcast’s broadcast unit is offering a complete stream of the game, via NBCSports.com, along with additional camera angles and other digital goodies. From the press release:

Sunday Night Football Extra employs a full HD-quality player, which includes a draggable picture-in-picture feature for any of the online-only cameras, plus full DVR functionality allowing the user to pause and scroll back-and-forth – even review plays in “slo-mo.”

After tonight’s game, NBC will offer the free streams for every game it broadcasts this season, every Sunday night.

It’s the fourth season in a row that NBC has done this, and I’m always surprised that more people don’t make a big deal out of it. NFL TV rights are the most valuable thing in video, and they only get more expensive each year — Disney just agreed to pay nearly $2 billion a season for Monday Night Football rights.

So the notion that a broadcaster would put this stuff up for free on the Web at the same time seems counterintuitive. (Note that Monday Night Football, for instance, is one of the only things you can’t watch via ESPN’s excellent new iPad/iPhone app.)

The only conclusion I can draw is that there just aren’t that many people watching the live streams — because really, if you have the option, you want to watch this on your big HD set, right?

OK. So what about the rest of the season? Well, you can watch that on the Web, legally, too. But it will cost you: Head over to DirecTV to see how much they’re charging for access to their “Sunday Ticket” package, which now includes unlimited access on your laptop, as well as iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc.

(FYI: If you’re willing to shell out for Sunday Ticket but don’t want a two-year DirecTV commitment, and you have a Sony PS3, try out the game device’s new service, which will let you order a season’s worth of football for $340. Pricey, but it will give you more flexibility and you don’t have to worry about installing a dish. Hint: When it asks you if you are able to receive DirecTV where you live, say “no.”)

I don’t condone stealing this stuff off the Web, of course, and those of you who want to do that don’t need my advice, anyway.

I will note, however, that readers who live outside the U.S. and want to stream the games can buy what appears to be a very reasonably priced package directly from the NFL. It looks like $150 for a basic package with all the games, though that may change depending on what country you live in.

*I’m not supposed to do this, because it violates some serious ethical rules, but here goes: Go Pack Go! Except when you’re playing the Vikings. And if you think I’m the only Minnesotan with conflicted Wisconsin loyalties, well — you’re wrong.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus