Football fans are not happy.
For the first time, a playoff game — Saturday night’s AFC wild card match between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins — will be behind a streaming paywall.
That is, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service has the rights to the game, so if you’re not a subscriber, you’re not watching.
In the past, of course, anyone with a TV would be able to see all postseason action at no additional cost.
But as more live sports make their way to digital streaming platforms, fans are put into the uncustomary position of shelling out extra cash to see key events.
“You’ve decided to rip off fans by exclusively broadcasting tomorrow’s Chiefs vs. Dolphins wild-card game on Peacock,” an angry Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY) wrote to execs at the NFL and NBC Sports.
“For the first time ever, fans will be forced to choose between signing up for yet another expensive streaming service or missing out on a major playoff game.”
Yeah, pretty much. And they’ll probably have to get used to it.
Professional sports have always followed the money, and the big bucks for sports licensing is now coming from the streaming world.
There’s a good reason the streamers — most of which remain unprofitable — are bullish on live sports: It’s appointment television.
In other words, it’s live TV with big audiences, and that’s what advertisers crave. That means the streamers can charge more for commercial time.
While football fans are justifiably cheesed about potentially missing out on a playoff game, streaming services and event organizers will be watching closely to see how big an audience Peacock manages to attract.
If the service draws a crowd, it’s a sure bet more sports and appointment TV will go digital, which means the Super Bowl, the World Series, maybe even the Oscars eventually will find streaming homes.
What can you do? Well, you can subscribe to everything, but that’s not financially feasible for most people.
Otherwise, look around for free trials for specific services ahead of a desired program.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to cancel when you’re done.