NFL is "long way off" from a streaming-only Super Bowl

After the NFL exclusively streamed a 2023 playoff game on Peacock, some began to worry that a Super Bowl will soon be available on a pay-per-view basis only.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has dismissed a streaming-only Super Bowl during his tenure. One of his top lieutenants has provided a somewhat longer commitment.

“I don’t think I’ll be working there when that happens,” NFL chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp said during the recent Washington Post Futurist Summit, via “I think we’re a long way off from that. We had 200 million people watch the Super Bowl. I think the Internet could handle that technically, but we’re not quite there yet.”

While the never-streamers won't find comfort in the failure to slam the door on the possibility, the reality is that, eventually, linear TV as it has existed since the birth of the boob tube will be gone. The transition is already happening. Few people "change channels" these days; most press the menu button and scroll through the apps. Linear TV has become, for them, just one of the available streaming options.

At some point, traditional broadcast TV will diminish greatly in significance. While it might not disappear, it will be a shadow of what it was. That's when the Super Bowl will stream.

Of course, streaming and pay-per-view at an exorbitant price are two different things. The Super Bowl, if/when (when) it moves to streaming only, will likely be available as part of a broader service, because the NFL will want to maximize viewership. Charging $100 or whatever to watch the game won't do that.

At some point, selling the streaming rights to a revolving door of YouTube, Amazon, Peacock, and/or other services will become the norm. Just as the network rotation has been the approach, for decades.

Or maybe the NFL will make the Super Bowl available to multiple streamers, in order to get the broadest possible reach.

Regardless, times have changed. They'll keep changing. The NFL is both trying to spur change and keep up with it. When it happens, a Super Bowl on a streaming platform won't be revolutionary. It will be the fulfillment of an inevitability.