NFL and NBC Announce Plans To Stream The Super Bowl Online, For Free
Earlier today, NBC and the NFL announced that the 2012 Super Bowl will be be streamed live online, for free, using the same platform (Silverlight) that NBC uses to stream the Sunday Night Football games (SNF Extra). No authentication will be required and the Pro Bowl and NBC's wild-card playoff games will also be streamed live on NBCSports.com and NFL.com. Verizon will also stream the games live to mobile devices.
Since most people want to watch the Super Bowl on TV, I don't expect the traffic for the Super Bowl webcast to break any records. NBC has said that they average around 250,000 viewers for their SNF games, although that's probably total viewers, not simultaneous streams and the TV broadcast for Sunday Night Football averages more than 21M viewers. So NBC hasn't seen any evidence that online streaming of SNF has any kind of negative impact on TV viewership. Adding the Super Bowl as a live stream makes a lot of sense and I suspect NBC will also sell online only ads during the game, so there's also the ad monetization angle for NBC to try and cover their costs from streaming.
Akamai has confirmed for me that they will be involved in the webcast, which is no surprise since they already do a lot of streaming for the NFL. I don't know if Akamai will be the exclusive CDN, but I would not be surprised if NBC used more than one CDN for the webcasts and elected to have a dual-vendor approach when it comes to the distribution. I just hope NBC encodes the Super Bowl at a higher quality than they do the Sunday Night Football games, which right now, peaks at 2Mbps.