NFL tests live Internet telecasts with Verizon

The National Football League is planning to test live broadcasts of Thursday and Saturday night games over the Internet to some customers of Verizon Communications Inc. and DirecTV Group Inc, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday.

The NFL said Web broadcasts should be available in coming weeks to subscribers of Verizon’s Fios high-speed Internet service, as well as customers of DirecTV who have signed up for Verizon’s Web service under their joint marketing arrangement.

“I think consumers are changing,” Goodell said at the Reuters Media Summit in New York. He said fans who watch games on their living room televisions also want additional football data and entertainment on their computers and on cell phones.

The NFL will test the Web service internally for this Thursday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals. If the technology works, it aims to launch a service in the coming weeks, but Goodell did not pinpoint a date.

The league also plans to roll out the Web service, which includes audio from players and coaches as well as new camera angles on the game, to other cable operators who carry its television network, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Verizon said in October it had 118,000 television customers at the end of the third quarter. The NFL’s own network channel has around 41 million subscribers.

NFL already sends some material from its TV channel and game statistics and video highlights to Sprint Nextel Corp. cell phones. But Goodell said he does not see large audiences looking at full live games on cell phones.

“It is a three-hour experience,” he said. “Frankly, it is counter to what we are seeing. People want to see it on the wide screen.”