Streaming television is the wave of the future.
It may, in fact, be the wave of the present.
Let’s say cable is like the rabbit ears of the current television landscape. In that case, streaming television is like what cable used to be: You don’t necessarily need it to watch television, but you will one day.
People thought the idea of paying to watch television was absurd in the 1970s. Then, the 1980s and 1990s came along and made it a reality, as more quality programming could only be consumed through a cable provider.
As it pertains to sports, we could always count on watching our favorite teams on over-the-air channels...until we couldn’t. Or, at least we could no longer watch baseball, basketball and hockey on a nightly basis.
But at least we had the NFL, a brand of professional football that could always be found for free on CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC.
Sure, we still had to pay lots of money to get those networks “for free” through a cable provider that usually offered a much clearer picture, but at least we didn’t have to “pay” to watch the NFL.
Then, the NFL Network came along and tried to get us to pay to watch Thursday Night Football.
ESPN, ABC’s exclusive sports partner on the cable side, also entered the ring and tried to get us to pay to watch Monday Night Football.
OK, as a traditionalist, that one hurt and still does (even though I still refuse to pay extra to watch MNF).
Then, streaming television started to become a thing, and it wasn’t long—well, maybe it was long—before your best shows could only be found on channels like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Cable still produced decent television, like USA Network’s stable of “Blue Sky” programming (I was partial to Burn Notice and White Collar), but it was certainly a notch or three below.
As for over-the-air networks? Hey, at least you still had The Bachelor and those CSI/SVU shows.
Anyway, if streaming is the wave of the future (or present), it’s only a matter of time before that will replace cable and over-the-air networks as the only way to watch television (or, at least truly decent television).
And if over-the-air networks want to remain relevant, or rebrand themselves for the future, they’re going to have to hop into bed with streaming services when it comes to their most precious property: The National Football League. NBC is the first to hop, thanks to a deal with its own streaming service—Peacock—that will make history on January 13, 2024: A Wild Card Playoff Game will “air” exclusively on a streaming channel.
Even before that, Peacock will exclusively stream a primetime regular-season game between the Bills and Chargers on December 23. That’s not going to be a historic event, though. No, Amazon made history in 2022 when it purchased the rights to stream Thursday Night Football exclusively on its network.
At any rate, it is quite the groundbreaking event for the NFL to allow a postseason game to stream exclusively behind a paywall (except for the in-market viewers of those teams, of course), and it has people worried about the future.
It’s one thing to stream TNF on Amazon Prime. That’s no different than putting TNF and MNF on cable networks.
The postseason, though? That sucks!
But it’s only one playoff game, and there will be five more on Wild Card Weekend that will be accessible the traditional way.
Again, though, it is just a matter of time before NFL fans will have to purchase multiple streaming services—I’m guessing Peacock, Paramount Plus, ESPN and whatever name FOX eventually comes up with when it jumps into the streaming ring—to see the NFL on a weekly basis.
That time isn’t here yet, however, and I certainly don’t feel the urge to pay for Peacock just to see one wildcard game.
I got used to not watching Thursday Night Football (mainly, because I never have). I got used to not watching Monday Night Football.
If NBC eventually decides to put all of its Sunday Night Games on Peacock, well, at least I’ll have CBS and FOX on Sunday afternoons.
I already pay for Paramount Plus, so when FOX decides to go exclusively streaming with its NFL package, I will have a decision to make.
Will I be okay with watching one NFL package each and every week? Probably not, but stranger things have happened in my life.
As much as I love the NFL, I’ve learned to live without some of its programming over the years. Who’s to say I couldn’t live without more of it?
I can certainly live without that “historic” wildcard playoff game on January 13, 2024.