By: Justin Goldberg
For the first time in the 46 year history of the Super Bowl, the big game was available online to be legally streamed in real time. The ability to watch many sporting events online, ranging well beyond the big weekend for the NFL, is nothing new, however. Many popular websites, such as Firstrowsports.tv and Soccerlivetv.net, featured free streams of live sporting events from across the world. These websites, along with 305 more, were seized by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on February 2, just three days before the Super Bowl. Sixteen of the websites shut down were believed to have participated in the illegal streaming of sporting events, while the rest were said to be selling counterfeit NFL merchandise. On just the day that the government shut down these websites, there were 77 million attempts to access them: evidence that they were no secret to the average internet user.
All of the ruckus created by ICE in the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday was a perfect ploy to funnel internet viewers to NBC.com. On the official website, users were able to experience the most important part of the game. Or were they? Of course the Super Bowl is about the action on the gridiron, but there’s a reason why millions of people who think a post route is only something the mailman deals with tune in for the duration of the game every year. Actually, there are two reasons. One is the halftime show, and the (typically) more anticipated is the debut of new commercials. In fact, this year, NBC sold 58 commercial slots that brought in $75 million in revenue. Despite the commercials being such an integral part of the viewing experience, those who were streaming the game online did not get to experience them in real time. Instead, the ads became available off to the side after they aired. This meant that unless the effort was made during each break in the action to pick out the commercials as they showed up (and risk messing up your stream of the game) viewers had to sit through just a few repetitious commercials for the entire game, ruining some of the appeal of the event. Then there’s the other “show within a show,” the halftime show. Unfortunately for any Madonna fans watching online, the halftime show wasn’t shown at all on the live stream.
All-in-all, it was nice to see a legal option to watch the Super Bowl for those who couldn’t access a television, but there is still much work to be done. Oftentimes people view illegal feeds and perform related, illegal activities not because they wish to break the law, but because it is simply the most convenient option. If better legal substitutes were readily available, there wouldn’t be the need for people to seek out shadier alternatives.