The 2012 Super Bowl will be streamed online and on select mobile phones for the first time ever.
Billing the online offering as "NBC Postseason Extra," it will launch Jan. 7 with NBC's Wild Card Saturday doubleheader. followed by the Pro Bowl Jan. 29 from Hawaii, and Super Bowl XLVI Feb. 5 live from Indianapolis. The games will be streamed on both NBCSports.com and NFL.com, as well as Verizon mobile phones.
The stream will come from NBC's coverage, with additional camera angles, highlights and stats to add to the interactive experience.
Will online streaming of the big game and playoffs become standard operating procedure? "We'll see how this year goes," said an NFL source on background.
The league was not immediately available for comment.
CBS is next in the NFL title game rotation with coverage of Super Bowl XLVII, followed by Fox with Super Bowl XLVIII. Those contests are part of the NFL's existing contracts with the broadcast networks, which does not provide for streaming rights. Under the new nine-year rights deal the league signed with its three broadcast affiliates last week, only NBC, which has been streaming Sunday Night Football since the 2008 season, officially holds that right at this juncture. Although each of the three broadcast networks gained "TV Everywhere" rights under their new billion dollar deals, the league said it had not yet been decided if CBS and Fox would be streaming Sunday afternoon games. Those network may have affiliate and other business considerations that could sack such streaming plays.
If Super Bowl and postseason streaming does become the norm, the move to put playoff games online not only opens up the NFL to the increasingly mobile, increasingly broadband-centric audience, it could also remove one of the historic trump cards in some retransmission-consent disputes: the biggest ticket sports broadcast.
At least for the affiliates of the network carrying each year's NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, the possibility of losing access to those games has been one of the talking points in Washington, where legislators have argued that retrans blackouts threaten programming for which there is no substitute, like the big football games, college and pro.
But with online access, most of the cable viewers affected by those blackouts would have an online option.