Pirated video streams of televised Countrywide Football League online games are widespread in Facebook and in Google’s YouTube service, CNBC has found.
Using technology coming from these internet giants, thousands of football fans were able to watch long segments of many contests free of charge through the league’s Week 13 schedule of games previous Thursday and Sunday.
Dozens of these video recording streams, pirated from CBS and NBC broadcasts, featured ads from well-known national brands interspersed with game actions.
This online activity comes as the group struggles with declining ratings which may have been blamed variously on player protests through the national anthem and revelations about former players suffering from a brain disease due to concussions.
Yet this unlawful distribution of NFL content may also be crimping the league’s viewer quantities.
The NFL strictly controls television set and online video rights to its games. Specifically, games played by clubs that are not in a local TV market are often not really televised except on DirecTV, and only for subscribers who spend extra for a package deal named “Sunday Ticket.” That package starts at $55 monthly.
If pirated versions of these games are available internet surfers might ignore the DirecTV package, or skip locally televised video games that they might otherwise watch. In addition, it means that advertisers are reaching audience people that they did not pay for.
Facebook reportedly is prepared to spend more than $1 billion for the privileges to future sports content, but as of this moment Amazon is the only large technology company with a streaming deal for football. It paid out $50 million for the privileges to stream 10 Thursday Night Football video games this year.