Is Adobe Paying The NFL To Use Flash?

Last night, the NFL and broadcast the first of 17 free games this year dubbed "Sunday Night Football Extra" using Adobe Flash video. Some industry people I spoke to seemed surprised that the NFL and NBC were using Flash considering that NBC just did the Olympics in Silverlight. Others are suggesting that Adobe, which announced the games with a joint NFL press release, might be helping to subsidize the cost to the NFL and by covering some of the bandwidth costs associated with broadcasting the games online.

While Adobe would not comment on the financial details of the deal with the NFL, it would not surprise me if Adobe is taking the same approach Microsoft’s took with NBC for the Olympics, by helping to cover the content delivery costs. Some might ask, if Adobe is willing to pay to get the NFL to use Flash, why didn’t Adobe pay to keep Microsoft’s Silverlight platform from being used for the Olympics? The answer is, Adobe didn’t need to. Outside of the NBC Olympics website, most of the other portals around the world were already using Flash video for the Olympics.

But for the NFL games, they represent a huge opportunity for Adobe down the road. If the games are successful, you could imagine the NFL really ramping up their online video strategy and it would be in Adobe’s best interest to make sure a property like the NFL uses their platform moving forward. There are only a few major sports leagues in the U.S. and the NFL probably has one of the most loyal fan bases around, outside of car racing, not to mention one of the largest marketing and promotional arms. While I have not been able to confirm that Adobe is in fact helping cover the costs of broadcasting the NFL games online, it’s a smart move on their part if they are. It will be very interesting to see if Adobe and Microsoft start bidding on some of the same high-profile events down the road as more main-stream content gets broadcast live over the web.