After my post last week entitled "NFL's Live Streaming Leaves A Lot To Be Desired: Capping Users, Poor Video Quality", someone wrote into me to point out that the NFL already has a HD full-screen video streaming service called Game Pass HD, a subscription based offering that is only available to users outside the U.S. and Canada.
Game Pass HD offers all of the functionality and quality that I would expect the NFL would want to offer for their Sunday Night Football Extra offering, especially since they are quoted in so many places as saying that the "user experience" is what's most important to them. The Game Pass service has excellent video quality, in what looks to be up to a 2MB stream using Move Networks and allows for full-screen mode. You can see a demo of the service on the NFL's website here.
While I don't know exactly why the NFL would offer one video stream in better quality than another, you have to wonder if this is another example of content owners not putting their content in HD due to the added costs of distributing HD quality video. For those paying for the stream, higher quality is offered. But for the free stream, why deliver HD quality when the content is not being monetized? That's the debate the industry should be discussing instead of focusing on the technology of HD.
I know that some will say that HD quality means longer engagement periods which then provides the ability to deliver more ads or branding, but at what cost? I have yet to see anyone provide a breakdown on how many additional ads can be delivered in an HD stream and how that offsets the additional bandwidth costs associated with HD video delivery. If all it takes to deliver more ads and generate more revenue is an HD quality stream, then every content owner would be encoding their content in higher bitrates or in HD quality. Yet so far, HD quality video on the web is still not the norm and in my mind, this still all comes down to cost. Delivering HD quality video is still too expensive for the majority of content owners when their content is not generating any revenue.