NFL Offers HD, Full-Screen Streaming, But Only Outside The U.S.

Nfl
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.

  • http://www.thedrmblog.com Christopher Levy

    I think it makes perfect sense that they are charging for the higher quality stream. I cannot imagine why anyone would just give content away when it costs MONEY to produce, manage, protect and distribute.
    Ad revenue is never going to pay for it either. The NFL will continue to lose money on this free stream and I wouldn’t be suprised if they just cancel it altogether for next season.
    Ad-support models only work when the costs of delivery are incredibly small.

  • Xavier Oswald

    I totally agree with Christopher when he says : “Ad-support models only work when the costs of delivery are incredibly small”. I guess there is only one solution : Legitimate Peer to Peer solution allowing to kill bandwidth costs and server loads (up to 90%).

  • http://www.BusinessOfVideo.com Dan Rayburn

    P2P is not going to solve the problem. Every time the subject of cost comes up, someone says their P2P solution is the only way to solve the problem. If it was that easy, why is no major broadcaster in the U.S. using it? P2P is NOT the solution.

  • http://www.thedrmblog.com Christopher Levy

    Major Issues With P2P Delivery:
    1. Impact on user’s Computer I.E. performance when their drive and NIC and CPU are being used by a 3rd party app in the background to serve bits.
    2. Distribution of 3rd party content to end-user machines I.E. it’s one thing to have a video you licensed from a 3rd party on your servers for distribution. It’s entirely another proposition to have that same video on 200 machines of people you don’t know around the world.
    3. COST. CDN costs are plummeting like the price of a gallon of gas. I have yet to see a P2P or Grid or Peer-Assisted model that is actually cost effective.

  • http://www.indycar.com Adrian Payne

    Christopher — You make a good point when you say “Ad-support models only work when the costs of delivery are incredibly small.”
    The delivery costs are now to the point where you can make a profit on Ad-supported models.
    I have streamed out live practices, Quals and races for the Indy Racing League free for three years now. We have been able to make a profit for two years now with just the ad supported model.
    Our audience isn’t as large as the NFL but during the Indy 500 it is probably equal to any streamed NFL game.
    To stream a live HD quality show, the costs go up and by next year even that will be supported by ads so they can be streamed at no costs to the end user.
    Hopefully more live events will be able to do the same next year.

  • http://www.buydrm.com Christopher Levy

    Adrian, That’s awesome news. Did you stream those yourself or did you use MediaZone?
    Are you using in-stream advertising or are you surrounding your player with conventional pillar and banner ads? Regards.

  • http://www.djingle.fr/upload/download/11/Solutions_Overview.pdf Xavier Oswald

    Dear Christopher,
    to respond to your comments
    1. Impact on user’s Computer I.E. performance when their drive and NIC and CPU are being used by a 3rd party app in the background to serve bits.
    My answer :
    I guess it depends on the quality of the developers :)
    2. Distribution of 3rd party content to end-user machines I.E. it’s one thing to have a video you licensed from a 3rd party on your servers for distribution. It’s entirely another proposition to have that same video on 200 machines of people you don’t know around the world.
    My answer :
    A legal P2P system is not as an illegal P2P system: meaning that every content is secure (like a VPN).
    If security is your concern :
    Main DRMs are fully compatible with the principles of P2P
    3. COST. CDN costs are plummeting like the price of a gallon of gas. I have yet to see a P2P or Grid or Peer-Assisted model that is actually cost effective.
    My answer :
    Whatever the price of bandwith is or will be, P2P will always be cheaper.
    And let’s all hope for CDNs that the price of bandwith will not reach 0 $ per Go.
    Best,
    Xavier

  • Paul Marks

    Every sunday I’ve been connecting my computer to a projector and throwing up the games on my garage.
    Up to about 30 people who come over.
    It’s the greatest american football experience anyone has ever seen.

  • http://www.indycar.com Adrian Payne

    Christopher — The MediaZone deal was separate and was a pay per view model for enhanced features.
    We streamed out the free version. To answer your questions, here is how we currently sell ad placement:
    1. Bottom ¼ overlay. This ad appears every 10 minutes and stays up no longer than 15 seconds.
    2. In-Stream ads. Ads are sold in different blocks ranging from 15 seconds to 1 minute.
    3. Player entitlement. The sponsor purchases the naming rights and the player is customized for them.
    4. Ad banners are placed outside the player.
    On a technical note, the biggest cost savings came when we switched to cloud computing for streaming. That was the turning point for us.
    I can see more live sporting events moving in this direction to minimize costs and allow the content to be streamed out for no cost to the users.

  • http://www.thedrmblog.com Christopher Levy

    Adrian,
    Christopher — The MediaZone deal was separate and was a pay per view model for enhanced features.
    [CL] Gotcha. I heard they are being shut-down by Naspers as is Entriq. Have you heard anything more about that?
    We streamed out the free version. To answer your questions, here is how we currently sell ad placement:
    1. Bottom ¼ overlay. This ad appears every 10 minutes and stays up no longer than 15 seconds.
    2. In-Stream ads. Ads are sold in different blocks ranging from 15 seconds to 1 minute.
    3. Player entitlement. The sponsor purchases the naming rights and the player is customized for them.
    4. Ad banners are placed outside the player.
    [CL] Man that is a lot of ads :). What kind of click-thru’s percentages are your sponsors getting if you don’t mind me asking? Are these new sponsors or returning ones?
    On a technical note, the biggest cost savings came when we switched to cloud computing for streaming. That was the turning point for us.
    [CL]For free content like giveaways and UGC, Amazon’s service is a good bet for sure. When you are selling content and have an actual customer with issues, it’s always nice to be able to pick up a phone and call someone IMHO.
    I can see more live sporting events moving in this direction to minimize costs and allow the content to be streamed out for no cost to the users.
    [CL] Nah I see it going the opposite way. Content owners dont want to just get by and I think that over-branding their content with ads or having to deal with the littany of legal issues related to that approach are barriers. The real future of digital media is going to be in pay media. It’s not just about minimizing costs because the cloud is just not that much cheaper than a CDN and what you lose in the process by using the cloud is going to cost you in user experience. No cost means no real revenue and that’s not a business model.

  • http://www.thedrmblog.com Christopher Levy

    Xavier:
    Dear Christopher,
    to respond to your comments
    1. Impact on user’s Computer I.E. performance when their drive and NIC and CPU are being used by a 3rd party app in the background to serve bits.
    My answer :
    I guess it depends on the quality of the developers :)
    [CL] Xavier, show me a P2P application that doesn’t use the local user’s machine resources to deliver content please. It’s not possible and I have seen all of them and I am hardly new to this space. Again if you have an application that doesn’t use the local user’s disk, cpu, ram, NIC etc please show it to me. It would be the first of it’s kind anywhere in the universe.
    2. Distribution of 3rd party content to end-user machines I.E. it’s one thing to have a video you licensed from a 3rd party on your servers for distribution. It’s entirely another proposition to have that same video on 200 machines of people you don’t know around the world.
    My answer :
    A legal P2P system is not as an illegal P2P system: meaning that every content is secure (like a VPN).
    If security is your concern :
    Main DRMs are fully compatible with the principles of P2P
    [CL] Yes and no. Yes DRM is very applicable here as the content is distributed and No just because you are using a proprietary connection protocol, that doesn’t mean the content is secure. It’s sitting on somebody’s hard drive where they can access it and do what they want with it. Users whose machines are being used as inter-peer connections are also able to grab the content and store it locally. These types of dilemmas make content owners cringe.
    3. COST. CDN costs are plummeting like the price of a gallon of gas. I have yet to see a P2P or Grid or Peer-Assisted model that is actually cost effective.
    My answer :
    Whatever the price of bandwith is or will be, P2P will always be cheaper.
    And let’s all hope for CDNs that the price of bandwith will not reach 0 $ per Go.
    [CL] Actually that is not true at all. The cost is just moved to the user’s machine you are using to peer the traffic which is why Cox and Time Warner are looking at capping this type of traffic. All you are doing is shifting the cost from a CDN to the ISP and they aren’t having it my friend. Not to mention the negative effects on the user’s connection to the net with P2P apps using it as well. It just doesn’t add up.
    CDN bandwidth is cheap now and we are starting to see more and more volume of it being used which is actually a benefit to the CDNs. You can bet your last dollar that P2P Delivery companies will be out of business looooooooonnng before any of the CDN’s my friend :)
    Best,
    Xavier
    Likewise,
    Christopher

  • http://www.djingle.fr/upload/download/11/Solutions_Overview.pdf Xavier Oswald

    Christopher,
    [CL] Xavier, show me a P2P application that doesn’t use the local user’s machine resources to deliver content please. It’s not possible and I have seen all of them and I am hardly new to this space. Again if you have an application that doesn’t use the local user’s disk, cpu, ram, NIC etc please show it to me. It would be the first of it’s kind anywhere in the universe.
    My answer
    Of course, a P2P application is using user’s machine resources. The question is : does it disturb the user while is using its machine. I stand on my point : no if you have good developers and if the application has never the priority over others apps (internet, etc.).
    [CL] Yes and no. Yes DRM is very applicable here as the content is distributed and No just because you are using a proprietary connection protocol, that doesn’t mean the content is secure. It’s sitting on somebody’s hard drive where they can access it and do what they want with it. Users whose machines are being used as inter-peer connections are also able to grab the content and store it locally. These types of dilemmas make content owners cringe.
    My answer
    Even if you have access to the “content/data” stored on your machine. The question is To do what ? If you cannot read it, what’s the point in copying it, burning it ?
    [CL] Actually that is not true at all. The cost is just moved to the user’s machine you are using to peer the traffic which is why Cox and Time Warner are looking at capping this type of traffic. All you are doing is shifting the cost from a CDN to the ISP and they aren’t having it my friend. Not to mention the negative effects on the user’s connection to the net with P2P apps using it as well. It just doesn’t add up.
    CDN bandwidth is cheap now and we are starting to see more and more volume of it being used which is actually a benefit to the CDNs. You can bet your last dollar that P2P Delivery companies will be out of business looooooooonnng before any of the CDN’s my friend :)
    My answer
    The question is : is the bandwidth cheap enough to ensure a business model for video on line ? For video in HD ? I guess not. At least not for free TV on demand or Free Video on Demand. Just do the maths, even if prices are dropping.

  • http://www.indycar.com Adrian Payne

    Christopher — I edited this down a little. Hopefully I didn’t take anything out of context.
    [CL] Gotcha. I heard they are being shut-down by Naspers as is Entriq. Have you heard anything more about that?
    [AP] I haven’t heard anything else about them.
    [CL] Man that is a lot of ads :). What kind of click-thru’s percentages are your sponsors getting if you don’t mind me asking? Are these new sponsors or returning ones?
    [AP] Yes it seems like a lot of ads. We try to make the placement nonintrusive so the end user doesn’t miss any action on the track.
    We have retained almost all of the sponsors and will have additional new ones next year.
    The click thru percentage has ranged from .5% to 17% depending on the event and day of the promotional ad. The sponsors are in tune with the fan base and have some great relevant promotions.
    [CL]For free content like giveaways and UGC, Amazon’s service is a good bet for sure. When you are selling content and have an actual customer with issues, it’s always nice to be able to pick up a phone and call someone IMHO.
    [AP] I am a bit confused which is nothing new for me. Are you saying for paying content not to use services like Amazon Web Services? We do use them for paying services. If a customer has a question, we list our phone number and email address so we can talk to them directly but that may not be what you were talking about.
    [CL] Nah I see it going the opposite way. Content owners dont want to just get by and I think that over-branding their content with ads or having to deal with the littany of legal issues related to that approach are barriers. The real future of digital media is going to be in pay media. It’s not just about minimizing costs because the cloud is just not that much cheaper than a CDN and what you lose in the process by using the cloud is going to cost you in user experience. No cost means no real revenue and that’s not a business model.
    [AP] You bring up an important issue that all content owners are facing right now. I will address sporting events. The competition in North America for sporting events is extremely competitive. How can we grow our audience in this competitive field? How many new customers will pay to watch a sport? How do we get our athletes out in front of as many people as possible? By making our context free to everybody we have been able to grow our audience and get the athletes out in front of millions. We couldn’t have done this with a pay model. On the flip side, we couldn’t do it unless we were able to monetize the streams. The traditional CDN and ISP route was expensive and for events like Indy those costs were very high. That is when we looked into Cloud Computing for streaming.
    To your point about over-branding the content, I agree there is a fine line between too much clutter and a good user experience.
    Cloud computing is a great service but there are definitely things that need to be understood up front. Cloud puts the technical skills back on your staff that are traditional done by an ISP. It requires a highly technical staff to integrate cloud computing into your company’s infrastructure. It is well worth it because the hard cost savings are significant. No question, you lose some of the offerings that CDN’s offer.
    Cloud Computing for video streaming may not be for everybody but it has worked very well for us. The hard cost savings we experienced have been significant but again you we changed our infrastructure around the cloud.
    Hopefully I didn’t ramble on to much.