NFL football games may someday be coming to a computer near you.
At a reasonable price.
Earlier this summer, Yahoo! landed exclusive rights to stream the Bills - Jaguars game in London online this fall. It will mark the first time that a regular season game will be live-streamed around the world for free.
If it goes well, it could mean more NFL games being streamed online in the future. And that could lead to all NFL games being streamed online, at a more reasonable price than the $200-plus NFL Sunday Ticket package from DirecTV.
Most prime time NFL games are already available online. With a cable subscription, you can watch Sunday Night Football on NBC's Live Extra, Monday Night Football on ESPN's WatchESPN app, and Thursday Night Football on NFL Network's NFL.com/Live page.
But a day may be coming when you don't need a cable subscription to stream NFL games. Instead, fans could have the option of subscribing to an online service.
There's a popular trend these days to cancel cable in favor of Internet TV. Many shows are now available online for a monthly fee. Professional sports — including football — may soon follow suit.
If Yahoo! is not the answer, their top competitor, Google, may be. Google owns YouTube, a video site that would be ideal for streaming NFL games. For a game-by-game or even season-long fee, fans could stream games on YouTube.
And if not Google, it could be someone — anyone — else.
The bad news is that the NFL already has something similar to this with the overpriced NFL Sunday Ticket package. But there's also good news — NFLST is coming under fire.
Writes Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica:
A proposed class action lawsuit against DirecTV and the National Football League says the two entities have colluded to raise the price of the NFL Sunday Ticket package, which is sold exclusively by DirecTV.
The proposed class of bar and restaurant owners are allegedly paying higher prices than they would if multiple video providers were allowed to broadcast the Sunday Ticket package. The exclusive deal gives DirecTV a monopoly over the broadcast of out-of-market games, and the NFL has "acted with an intent to allow DirecTV to illegally acquire and maintain that monopoly power in the relevant product market," the lawsuit says.
Monopolies, as Madden video gamers know, are never good for the consumer.
The lawsuit mentioned above hopes to take away DirecTV's exclusive deal, which would be the first step in the right direction. Competition breeds innovation, and both would be beneficial for football fans.
DirecTV's NFLST package is also coming under fire for not offering single-team packages:
DirecTV and the NFL have been hit with a class-action suit, alleging that the bundling of games in the NFL Sunday Ticket package violates antitrust laws.
The suit, filed in a California federal court by Thomas Abrahamian, says Sunday Ticket subscribers shouldn't have to pay several hundred dollars for the pro football league's entire spectrum of out-of-market games just to follow one team or see an individual game.
The NFL and DirecTV would probably have to lose the above lawsuits before single-team or even single-game packages are made available. DirecTV's deal with the NFL is good through 2023.
Eventually, all TV will likely be streamed online, and the NFL will follow suit. In the meantime, the league will drag its feet as long as possible before streaming all NFL games online at a reasonable price.
But as long as we have lawsuits, we have hope.