The Super Bowl Is Simultaneously Killing and Saving Television

Unlike other networks, which are fearful to put stuff on the Internets, NBC's not worried about losing money on its free stream of this year's Super Bowl. 

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Unlike other networks, which are fearful to put stuff on the Internets, NBC's not worried about losing money on its free stream of this year's Super Bowl. That's because in the streaming versus television war, sports programming plays a different role than all of our other TV pleasures. Unlike Gossip Girl or Parks and Recreation viewers, for whom a laptop is a suitable medium of consumption, sports fans overwhelmingly prefer TV as part of the experience. And NBC knows that. The real fans will watch the game on a big HD screen, as NBC's digital guy Rick Cordella explained, Super Bowl streamers are just bonus eyeballs. This very mentality is what's driving the television industry. For better and worse.

Television is made for sports, from cable packages to the physical devices, the whole industry caters to watching games. Think, high definition, bigger screens, maybe even 3D, all of these technological improvements make it easier to see a pile of men chase after a ball and make viewers feel like they're sitting in the stands. A quality NFL experience makes cable worthwhile for many fans. It's also why ESPN knows it can charge more. There's value in watching the game on a giant, crisp screen. Putting that stuff on the Internet won't interest many sports fans.

But, it's also that very mentality has not-so-crazy about sports subscribers ditching for the Web. As ESPN drives cable packages up, it has alienated non-sports watchers. Many people pay for cable because of stuff brought to us by ESPN, therefore ESPN feels it can charge cable companies more then everyone else to offer that programming. Executives worry that these high prices are pushing subscribers away. And that anxiety isn't totally unfounded. Take a look, this handy chart below from AllThingsD's Peter Kafka. Sports cost a lot. And, we think the rising cable costs had something to do with all the TV subscribers Time Warner lost this quarter.

The Super Bowl would not feel the same crammed around an unreliable laptop with a tiny screen and is an exception to regular season gaming. But, considering the hardest core of fans tune in all year round, NBC doesn't seem worried much about losing its habitual viewers to the net. In fact, it has been streaming Sunday Night Football broadcasts all year.

Image via Shutterstock by Jonathan G. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.