Watching the NFL online is an exercise in futility.

18 Sep

I bought NFL Sunday Ticket for the first time ever this weekend. It’s awesome: every game, every score, Red Zone,  all that jazz.

There are two packages: $199.99, which gets you TV only, and $299.99 which gets you TV and online viewing so you can watch on your phone or tablet.  I went for the online one so I could watch it wherever I wanted, and it was absolutely great. I bounced around my apartment, watched the games on whatever device I happened to have to hand. Even went to a friend’s and pulled out the iPad to catch a bit of one of the late games.  Champion.

Then I tried to watch The Niners and The Lions on Sunday Night Football online from my friend’s house, but it’s not part of Sunday Ticket so I couldn’t watch through the Sunday Ticket app. No problem, as a Direct TV customer who can watch the game on my TV at home it must be available to me through the Direct TV regular app. Right?

Of course not: I had to watch it online at Doesn’t make any sense and I only found this out through a process of trial and error, but whatever.

Come Monday, and I settled down to watch the Broncos and the Falcons duke it out in the Atlanta Dome.  This game also isn’t part of Sunday Ticket (fair enough, it’s not even on a Sunday), but it is on ESPN, and as I get ESPN at home and I pay for online NFL access, I should be able to watch it on my iPad, right?

Of course not, here’s what I got when I tried:

The copy reads: We are unable to confirm ESPN3 access. Please verify that you are a customer of an ESPN3 affiliated partner.

I was connecting my iPad using my Verizon LTE phone as a hotspot. Verizon have a contract with the NFL, and for a monthly fee (which I pay) you can watch and listen to live NFL content on your phone. Look, here’s Drew Brees (of the 0-2 New Orleans Saints) looking all serious and brooding as he sells it to me:

Drew failed to mention that I wouldn’t be able to get this game. I felt cheated. Not as cheated as Saints fans who thought their team was going to contend this year, but cheated all the same.

Quick recap: I’m an NFL Sunday Ticket customer who pays for online access. I’m also an ESPN customer, and a Verizon customer who pays for their NFL content, who’s connecting to the internet using my Verizon phone, but I can’t watch the football.  Why? How does that make any sense?  And it’s not just confined to football either: you’ll see the same thing repeated all over the place. It is hugely and baffling complex.

Conversely, a quick google search will pull up dozens and dozens of illegal sports streams.  Those illegal streams will continue to flourish until the content providers and various rights owners sort it out: they need to make it easy and get out of the way.

Despite all the neat technology, there’s something terribly archaic and old fashioned about all of this, not unlike the whole NBC Olympics tape delay shambles. By trying to protect their revenue streams short term, I can’t help but feel like they’re setting themselves up for long term failure.  Also, it’s bloody frustrating as a football fan to be scrabbling around trying to work out where I need to go to watch the games.

Fix this please. It’s easy.


4 Responses to “Watching the NFL online is an exercise in futility.”

  1. @DeanShaw September 19, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    Sounds like a convoluted mess…an enigma wrapped in a riddle. But let’s be honest, you should have been watching
    NASCAR anyway. #BoogityBoogity

  2. matt blocher September 19, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    good to know Kai – I haven’t tried a non-Sunday game, or the Sunday night game on my iphone. But how cool is it to have 8 games on the screen at once on Sunday morning?


  1. Watching the NFL online is an exercise in futility. « Kai MacMahon … | Watch the NFL Online for Free - September 18, 2012

    […] Watching the NFL online is an exercise in futility. « Kai MacMahon … Tags: 299-99-which, are-two, every-game, every-score, first, first-time, for-the, gets-you, nfl, […]

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