In this day and age, streaming sports online is no longer a luxury, it's now considered a requirement. As fans get used to seeing sports on their smartphones and tablets, the networks are playing catchup in providing live events online. ESPN and NBC have been aggressive using their apps to provide live sports to the masses. CBS has just opened up its lineup in the past year allowing SEC football and college basketball games.
But when it comes to the NFL, the amount of games online has been growing at a snail's pace. NBC, ESPN and DirecTV stream their games, but only Sunday Night Football can be seen without the need to authenticate a cable or satellite subscription. The Super Bowl only began streaming in 2012 and NBC started providing an online feed of its Wild Card Saturday doubleheader just last year.
This year becomes a whole new ballgame for fans as NBC will once again allow fans to see its NFL playoff doubleheader on computers and tablets. CBS enters the online fray by providing online streams of the AFC playoffs on its website again for computers and tablets. For Fox, a network that has mostly shied away from providing online streams, it will put Super Bowl XLVIII on its website for all to see, but as for the NFC playoffs, that's a different story.
Starting this Sunday, Fox's online stream of the Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs plus the NFC Championship can only be accessed through its Fox Sports Go app and seen by authenticated subscribers of just a handful of cable providers that have agreements with the network. If you have an account with AT&T U-Verse, Cablevision's Optimum, Comcast's Xfinity, Midcontinent Communications, Suddenlink and Wow (or WideOpenWest), you're in luck. But if your account is with Bright House, DirecTV, Dish, Time Warner or another cable provider, you're on the outside looking in.
Why is Fox doing this while the other networks have shooed the authentication process? Fox has been going the "TV Everywhere" route, allowing their cable partners to share in the online experience. Fox's primetime shows can be accessed online through a Hulu Plus subscription account and not free unlike the other networks. An Awful Announcing request for a statement and subsequent interview from Fox on the streaming issue went unanswered.
So fans can still watch CBS' and NBC's games online without having to go through a sign-in process. But if the Fox authenticating experiment goes well, one could surmise that CBS and NBC might do something similar down the road. Authenticating can be confusing as proven with the first year of the CBS/Turner collaboration on the NCAA Tournament, a process that was streamlined for last year's event. But if done correctly, it can be a one-time process that provides plenty of access. However, it's only as good as your cable and satellite provider having a deal in place.
Streaming sports remains in a Wild West mode. Hopefully, there will be a set standard for accessing games online in the near future.