NFL Takes Short Run at Webcasting

The National Football League, ever careful to keep its lucrative television audience as large as possible, has announced a deal with Verizon to offer live Webcasts of its Thurdsay and Saturday games to Verizon FiOS and DirectTV subscribers who also receive broadband Internet service, beginning December 7, 2006.

“Customers who subscribe to video and broadband with Verizon can now enjoy live NFL action on their TVs, PCs and laptops, both at home and away from home,” said Bob Ingalls, Verizon’s chief marketing officer, in a release. “NFL Networks already is a premier part of our video offerings, and we’re delighted to add it to our fast-growing roster of top-quality online entertainment programming. This reflects our commitment to providing consumers more and better choices in video and online entertainment.”

The arrangement covers Thursday and Saturday regular season games, a selection of college bowl and all-star games broadcast by the NFL Network, and other programming for Verizon broadband customers who receive the NFL Network (available via the Verizon’s 200-channel FiOS TV package. In addition, Verizon broadband customers will have access to weekly preview shows and highlights packages, off-season programming, exclusive commentary from NFL analysts, and NFL’s Fan Challenge fantasy football game.

The move marks the first time the NFl has authorized live Web broadcasts of its games via the Internet in North America, although it has a separate deal with Yahoo to provide live Webcasts for international audiences.

Since the deal is only available to Verizon FiOS and DirecTV customers who receive broadband Internet, the deal isn’t seen as taking away from the NFL’s TV audience: for one thing, only about a half million U.S. households are eligible to receive the Webcasts, and those households would already be capable of receiving NFL broadcasts via television, if they chose. However, the Webcast will offer alternate camera angles, additional audio, and in-game stats that aren’t available via the television feed.

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