Saturday, October 25, 2014


Tech Talk

Death of cable TV?

10/2/2013

Just as television networks kick off another season of reality shows, sitcoms and dramas, a deluge of media outlets are pondering the future of TV. With advertising dollars being spread thin between cable television and the rise of online video, will TV follow the path of the daily newspaper industry? It might be too early to forecast TV’s demise, but just for kicks, I’d like to throw out one idea that could potentially throw the TV world into disarray. What if Google gained exclusive rights to livestreaming NFL games online?

On its face, the idea sounds preposterous: Why would a tech giant possibly want the rights to streaming NFL games? Well the answer is quite simple. Google is much more than Web searches and smartphones. In recent years, it has quietly turned into a media giant. YouTube, which is owned by Google and is the fourth-most heavily trafficked website, is arguably the place for online entertainment. It streams Hollywood movies, music videos and original content produced by YouTube-funded partners, plus much more. So imagine if YouTube was the online destination to stream professional football games.

It’s no secret that the hardest part of cutting the cord and leaving cable television is sports. While the NFL is the uncontested king of TV ratings, its games are virtually nonexistent online. Websites such as ESPN, Yahoo and countless others more than cover fans’ unquenchable thirst for sports analysis, but to actually stream a game in real time requires either an expensive DirecTV subscription or the use of not-so-legal streaming sites.

In 2011, ESPN renewed its broadcast rights to NFL games for $1.5 billion a year for 10 years. If Google, a company with a yearly revenue exceeding $50 billion, made a similar bid to stream games on YouTube, that would be a game changer. Suddenly the most popular entertainment website would allow football fans to watch any game they want, while producing mountains of NFL viewer data — everything from demographics to viewing habits. It would just be bad business to spend advertising dollars on TV.

Television may not be in immediate trouble, but once the NFL gets into the webcasting game, all bets are off. CV

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Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.