Why NBC is streaming 11 hours of Super Bowl programming free


NBC will be streaming 11 straight hours of Super Bowl Sunday broadcast for free, complete with the game, its commercials in all their glory, the pre-game and half-time shows, prime-time and late-night programming, Advertising Age reported January 20.

Their motives in doing this are as altruistic as the guy who inflates the New England Patriots’ footballs.

One motive is to help justify their inflated advertising rates of a record-high $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time. Ad rates are based on audience size, and streaming the broadcast to desktops, laptops and tablets (though not smartphones, for reasons below) brings in an extra half-million or so viewers to charge sponsors for reaching. Two years ago, an average of 508,000 viewers watched the Super Bowl stream on  CBS, and 528,000 on Fox last year.

Another is to hype their non-Super Bowl programming. Networks usually set aside a certain amount of air time for program promos, but this year NBCUniversal will be getting a little, shall we say, carried away with it. “More than 18 divisions of NBCUniversal will be included in the promotional efforts surrounding the Super Bowl on NBC,” Variety notes. These include not only the expected NBC television divisions – NBC Entertainment (with “Late Night” host Seth Meyers making an appearance during the game), NBC News and NBC Sports – but also six different Universal films, Universal-owned theme parks, and online movie-ticketing service Fandango, which sells tickets to Universal movies playing at theaters from coast to coast and just happens to be owned, since 2007, by – surprise! – NBCU’s owner, Comcast. Even the NBCSN sports cable network, CNBC and NBCU’s Golf Channel will be getting off the bench and into play. “We try to utilize as much of [the game] as we can,” said NBC Sports Group John Miller – with a straight face, no less.

But neither is the main motive. The main motive stems from the fact that NBC is the only television network owned by a cable company – the only one which made the list of America’s Ten Most Hated Companies., by the way

The free streaming is bait, to lure thousands of viewers into forking over $49 a month for Comcast’s Xfinity cable service so they can use its TV Everywhere on-demand feature. On Super Bowl Sunday, you won’t have to log in with pay-tv credentials. But you may have to log in with your email address and other contact information, to let Comcast’s sales force capture hundreds of thousands of new leads. “We are leveraging the massive digital reach of the Super Bowl to help raise overall awareness of TV Everywhere by allowing consumers to explore our vast TVE offering with this special one-day-only access,” Alison Moore, EVP of TV Everywhere for NBCU, told Variety. Beyond “rais[ing] overall awareness,” there’s the hope of reversing the decline in cable and satellite subscription numbers by “attract[ing] younger viewers who have avoided paying for pricey pay-TV packages.” Like Comcast’s.

So if you want to catch the Super Bowl and your sales resistance is low, you have two ways to avoid the whole NBC/Universal/Comcast blitz.

You can watch the game on your smartphone; Verizon has exclusive rights to stream the game through the NFL Mobile app.

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