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NFL to Stream First Games

28 Jul, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The National Football League is about to join the digital age.

When Super Bowl champion New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins Sept. 4 to kick off the 2008 season, the nationally televised game also will be available for the first time via live ad-supported streaming video on NFL.com and NBCSports.com.

The live video, a first for the NFL, is part of a test the venerable sports league will conduct over the course of its 17-game Sunday Night Football TV schedule, which begins Sept. 7.

The streams feature audio from NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast team of Al Michaels (play-by-play), John Madden (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter).

The video also will offer alternative camera angles, including cable cam and a so-called "star cam" (camera following a star player).

Picture-in-picture technology allows viewers to watch multiple video streams at the same time, and in-game highlights (earlier game action) can be accessed on-demand.

Live stats allow for up-to-the minute game data along with player and team statistics, and an interactive feature lets fans connect with the broadcast team via a live blog.

The streams should test the resilience of NBC's $600 million annual contract to televise NFL games Sunday night, reportedly the network's largest single program expenditure.

The NFL is paid $3.7 billion a year by several networks for the broadcast rights.

Analysts say studies suggest 20% of online viewers are serious sports fans in the coveted 25- to 34-year-old demographic.

“Sports sites have the perfect opportunity to emerge as leaders in online video,” Bobby Tulsiani, analyst with Jupiter Research, said in a note.

Steve Bornstein, NFL EVP of media, said the league was interested in joining other content producers in figuring out ways to monetize the Internet.

“This is an exciting step forward for us as we offer our fans a new way to watch NFL games," Bornstein said. "We are combining NBC's outstanding Sunday Night Football telecast with extras that will enhance the fan enjoyment of the game."

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