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NBC Sports and NFL to Stream Sunday Night Football Online

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Earlier this week, I wrote in my post titled "The Year of Watching Sports Online", that the four major sports leagues have yet to put their products online for free. Well, that's going to change in a hurry.

On Monday, NBC Sports and the National Football League will announce that the entire Sunday Night Football schedule including the opening season game on Thursday, September 4 between the defending Super Bowl champions New York Giants and Washington Redskins will be seen online at NBCSports.com and NFL.com.

Last year, the NFL allowed DirecTV to stream its Sunday Ticket package, but it was for a fee tacked on to the subscription price. And subscribers to Verizon Fios TV were able to watch NFL Network games online. In both cases, the games were restricted to subscribers of DirecTV and Verizon Fios only. But with this latest development, NFL fans throughout the US will not have to pay to see Sunday Night Football on the web and the games will be made available to anyone with a high speed internet connection.

Breaking the story for Monday's edition, Terry Lefton and John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal write that this marks the first time that the NFL will stream its games in real time in the U.S. Lefton and Ourand add that the other NFL TV partners, CBS and Fox were not happy in learning the news as they wanted to stream their games this season as well. ESPN and NFL Network will not put their games online so as not to anger cable operators and dilute their products.

Sam Schechner and Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal write that this will be an experiment in hopes of adding new viewers and adding interactive features.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times reports that fans can choose from extra camera angles and multiple streams plus get highlights while the game is in progress.

Meg James of the Los Angeles Times writes that the NFL has finally joined the digital age.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News writes in his blog that NBC will most likely sell new online ads for the games and share the revenue with the league.

And blogger Joel Price, who got word of this weeks ago as an employee of the San Diego Chargers, says this latest move by the NFL will pay off big in the next few years.

With its streaming of the U.S. Open in June, Wimbledon and the U.S. Olympic Trials this month, the Summer Olympics next month and Sunday Night Football starting in September, NBC Sports can solidly say it's the leader in streaming sports online. While ESPN360 has webcast many of the events seen on the ESPN family of networks, not everyone can access the service. NBC Sports can say anyone with an internet connection can log online and watch its events for free.

We'll continue to monitor the fallout as this story continues to unfold. But this is major news that the NFL is going to allow streaming of one package of games.

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