TV’s Path Will Be Online

This is the future.

NBC announced it will be streaming Super Bowl XLIX online through NBC.com, NBC Sports Live Extra, and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. Best of all, you won’t need a cable or satellite TV subscription to do it. Just sign on, and watch all 11 hours of Super Bowl coverage from your computer or tablet.

For anyone who works in television or visual media – this is a big step. It’s an acknowledgement – finally – that the major TV networks are stepping out of their decades-old box and embracing a new way of delivering content.

The Super Bowl is the most watched television event on earth – last year’s game drew 111.5 million viewers. As a broadcaster, why would you want to limit the ability to watch something that popular? An event like that needs to be viewed in as many ways as possible

We live in an age where the ability to find and consume media is easier than ever. On an embarrassingly regular basis, my living room features shows being streamed on Netflix, games being played online through a console system, music streaming through Spotify, and news being discovered on Twitter on a phone – and sometimes all at the same time! Technology allows us to take our media with us wherever we go, at whatever time we want, and fewer and fewer people are sitting around the TV at a set time to watch the news, or watch a TV show. Streaming video through something like Netflix is much more common and convenient for viewers.

But the main holdout has been live sports. If you wanted to watch the college football championships, you needed to have a cable or satellite subscription to watch them on ESPN. If you want to see the Golden State Warriors take on the Portland Trail Blazers on a Thursday night (as I often do), you needed to subscribe to a cable package that included TNT. In an age where so many people have wanted to cut the cord on cable, the need for live sports has kept them on the hook with TV. Live sports is the only reason people are clinging to a broadcast model that doesn’t work. So let’s adapt to the reality and put live sports and other live programming online.

My hope is that NBC’s announcement signals the future. As more people abandon the outdated models of cable and satellite TV, more live broadcasts should be moved to the web. It’s already started – last night, our journalism students at OSU sat at their computers to watch a live stream of President Obama’s State of the Union Address. If sports is the only reason people still subscribe to cable or satellite, then it’s time to change and move into the 21st century. Let’s make all content available online, even if it’s in real time.

If you are a student studying for a career in media, this will be especially important to you moving forward. The traditional models of 5 o’clock news, 8 o’clock sitcom, 10 o’clock drama, 11 o’clock news is over. You need to create content that can be updated and altered as information comes in in real-time. And you need to ensure that people can access it whenever and however they want.

In an age where technology has the ability to offer any information we need on any device at the blink of an eye, it’s time we started making it a reality.

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