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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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September 16, 2008 7:29 AM

The Challenge of Being an Online-Only Football Fan

As I've shared before I canceled my cable TV service this summer, other than the four main broadcast channels I get all my TV over the Internet. But now I'm running into a dilemma since football season started.

While I can still get most games on TV as I still get Fox, CBS, and NBC, Monday night games are now only available on ESPN, which I can no longer watch.

I've tried finding some way of watching ESPN games online but so far no luck. ESPN.com doesn't seem to offer it; even if ESPN360.com did my broadband provider hasn't struck a deal with them so I can't access any content on that site, though I don't think this game is on here anyway.

I've done a little hunting for less-than-legal ways of accessing the signal online. Last year I successfully found a P2P TV streaming application that let me watch the games being shown on NFL Network, a cable channel that's only available on some cable systems. But none of the equivalent options I've found so far for ESPN seem to work.

What really got my goat on Sunday was watching a game and seeing multiple commercials for DIRECTV's Sunday Ticket, an add-on package that affords satellite TV subscribers the ability to access up to 14 games every Sunday. But guess what? If you don't subscribe to satellite TV, you can't get Sunday ticket.

Here's where things get really nutty: another feature of DIRECTV's Sunday Ticket is the ability to watch games online using a desktop video player. So if you're a subscriber, you don't even need to use satellite TV to watch, you can just go online to access live streams. But if you're not a subscriber? You can go pound sand.

So as it stands right now, the only way to be able to access every NFL game is to first subscribe to satellite TV, and then pay an extra monthly fee of roughly $80 a month. If you don't have, don't want, or can't get satellite TV, then tough luck, even though you likely do have broadband and therefore technologically are capable of receiving those streams.

How bizarre is this? Here I am, eager to watch football and yet unable to do so. I'm willing to pay money to watch games online, but I can't; I have to subscribe to satellite TV first.

Yet on the flip side it must be cost effective to deliver games online as NBC is simulcasting their Sunday night games online and you don't have to pay a thing; they make their money purely off of ads.

So it's not a technological issue. It's not a matter of lack of demand. It's even arguable that it's not a business issue per NBC's example.

Nope, instead it's just another example of the NFL caring more about cashing big checks for exclusivity from TV providers than about ensuring their fans can watch what they want, when they want, where they want.

The reason I bring this up isn't just to gnash my teeth in frustration but instead to point out that one of the biggest things holding back the future of the Internet isn't technology or demand or even the business case but instead it's greed and an unwillingness by many content owners (though thankfully not all) to be forward-looking in how this new medium is perceived and utilized as a distribution mechanism.

While the debate over whether the Internet can totally replace TV is a separate issue, I can't wait for the day when at the very least we're able to realize the promise of the Internet to watch what we want to watch without all these other interests getting in the way.

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