The future is coming, and it will be streamed, rather than televised, according to Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell. Or at least it will be streamed in addition to being televised, as Bidwell suggested recently during an appearance that he took part of for Pro Football Talk Live.
In spite of the fact that it is the leading American sports industry, commanding upwards of 11 figures in annual earnings, the NFL still somewhat lags behind other major sports leaders when it comes to providing suitable accommodations for those among its fan base who have turned away from television or are out of market for their favorite teams.
Aside from the usual television deals with the likes of NBC, ABC, Fox, ESPN, and of course its own NFL Network, the league’s NFL Sunday Ticket package via DirecTV has become an increasingly unpalatable option as its costs continue to rise and it fails to appropriately integrate streaming options, and non-dish options for viewing.
Bidwell believes it is only a matter of time before the league will have to adapt as the consumers demand it. “There’s no doubt it’s coming”, he said about a greater shift toward digital distribution. “The question is how we transition into it. What we need to do is do a great job of listening to our fans about how they want to consume NFL content”.
One could argue that the league has not always done such a great job of actually accomplishing that task. Even their decision last year to integrate all of their digital video packages under one ‘Game Pass’ banner for a larger sum was met with some derision for those who were not fond of the increased price that went along with the full package as the only option.
“Our fans are switching to digital”, Bidwell said, “they’re switching to handheld and mobile devices, and we want to respond to that”. It is one matter to realize it and to say that you would like to address it, however, and it is another matter to actually act upon it and offer a legitimate product that reflects the consumers’ desires.
To his credit, the Cardinals are the team that elected to partner with Amazon to offer a documentary series about the team’s season called All or Nothing, which is available to stream via their Prime video service, so at least the team clearly sees the future in digital streaming.
There is still a significant chasm to close, however, when it comes to going from that to reaching what many are searching for, which is a legitimate option to livestream NFL games, to see them live, rather than after the fact via Game Pass.
Many out of market fans unable or unwilling to accord NFL Sunday Ticket and DirecTV have had to resort either simply missing the games, attending bars with the package, or accessing illegal streaming services of questionable quality and safety. For many out-of-market fans, the future cannot get here soon enough.