Ars Technica is reporting that the National Football League in the US (i.e., football with your hands, not your feet), will begin streaming its games online this year. Subscribers of the league's $269 DirecTV satellite package will be able to pay an additional $99 to get games streamed to their PC. Running Windows. And Internet Explorer.
If that sounds like a bum deal to you, that's because it really is. Compared to Major League Baseball, a pioneer in online sports streaming, the NFL package sounds just awful. As a New York Yankees fan living outside of their local market, I rely on baseball's MLB.TV service to keep tabs on my favorite team. With MLB.TV for under $100 per season I can watch any out of market game streamed live, or watch full archives of completed games for the entire season, including edited/condensed games which show only the outcome of every at bat.
On the otherhand, because of the NFL's exclusive $700+ million per year deal with DirecTV (which runs through 2010) I have to be a subscriber to the satellite service to get access to out of market games. The cost is more than 3 times that of MLB.TV, and the service requires that I have a Windows machine and run IE. Yuck.
Even without the price and compatibility issues, I'm not sure it is worth it for football. Unlike baseball, where there can be around 100 games in a week, there are only 15-16 any given week in the NFL, at least 5 of which will be shown on cable (usually 1 on CBS and 2 on FOX on Sunday, 1 on NBC on Sunday night, and 1 on ESPN on Monday) -- sometimes more are shown (i.e., there are two Monday night games scheduled week one). So would $368 be worth it for 9 or 10 games per week? That seems ridiculously over priced. Even fans outside of North America would be hard pressed to be able to justify that cost.
Compared to other major North American sports leagues the NFL has been the most protective of its online video (the NBA even has a YouTube channel, for example, while the NFL doesn't allow any outside site to show game clips of more than 45 seconds and requires that they are removed within 24 hours), and their exclusive deal with DirecTV has more or less crippled their ability to offer a compelling online video package.
Update: I just thought of another reason this service seems like a bad idea: if you're already paying for the TV package, why do you even need the online service? I guess, maybe, to watch it at work... but who really works on Sundays (when all out of market games would be played -- Monday and late-season Saturday or holiday games are nationally televised)? It just doesn't make sense. If anyone is considering paying for this service, please let us know in the comments why it appeals to you.