Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Watch Vikings vs. Saints Live on the Web, for Free, Tonight. But Don't Get Used to It

Brett Favre and the Vikings limp into the Superdome tonight to play the Saints and kick off the NFL season. Great stuff, and if for some reason you’re not going to be in front of a TV, you’re not screwed: You can watch the game live on the Web, legally and for free, via NBC’s Football Extra feature.

Actually, even if you are watching on a big screen, it’s worth playing with the NBC webcast, just for fun: I’ve tried it a couple of times over the past couple of years, and it’s pretty good: The main attraction is the extra camera angles–in the past, they’ve included a shot dedicated exclusively to Favre, which I like. (Some of you, I realize, may choose other angles.)

This is a great, commonsense offering from NBC and the NFL: There’s absolutely no reason to watch football on a PC unless you have to, so it’s hard to see them losing eyeballs here.

Which means every Web visit–and Web dollar or dime–they do get is purely additive. (Note to those of you who like to gripe about this stuff–you will need to have Microsoft’s (MSFT) Silverlight installed to watch the stream.)

But don’t get used to it. After tonight’s game, NBC and the NFL are only offering this once a week, during NBC’s Sunday-night game. And it goes away entirely once the playoffs start. Beyond that, if you want to watch the NFL on the Web, you’ve either got to pay through the nose for a DirectTV package or try to find an illegal stream.

Meanwhile, note the utter absence of a Web marketing campaign telling you about the NBC feed. It’s been up and running since 2008, but I had to reach out to NBC this morning to confirm that it’s still extant.

It’s easy to understand why the Web games are a quiet experiment, unfortunately: NBC and the other broadcasters–CBS (CBS), News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox and Disney’s (DIS) ABC are paying the NFL a collective $3 billion a year in license fees. So both sides have an incentive, for now, to keep the games a TV-only experience.

Big sports–and pro football in particular–are one of the last bastions of old-style TV economics. Once you see cheap and legal access to the games on the Web, on a regular basis, you’ll know that the TV/Web convergence is here for good.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald