NFL makes play for live webcasts

Some games to be shown on Verizon FiOS, DirecTV

The NFL said Wednesday that it will provide live Web broadcasts of the NFL Network's Thursday and Saturday telecasts to Verizon's FiOS and DirecTV television and Internet subscribers.

It marks the first time live NFL games will be carried over the Internet in North America. The NFL struck a deal with Yahoo! Inc. this season to provide live webcast coverage of Sunday NFL games outside North America.

But the NFL, always mindful of not reducing the viewership of its lucrative TV packages, is making sure that the broadband test won't affect TV viewing. The NFL Network Web simulcast will be available only to Verizon FiOS customers who also have Verizon broadband as well as those Verizon broadband customers who have DirecTV. It wasn't clear how many that will be, but it is likely to be fewer than 500,000 nationwide.

The NFL said that it will test the broadband system in tonight's Baltimore Ravens-Cincinnati Bengals game. The first Web coverage could be as soon as Dec. 7's Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game and continue through season's end.

The webcast won't just include the NFL Network feed. The NFL said it also will include alternate camera angles, additional sound and in-game statistics that aren't available on the TV channel.

It is likely that other cable operators could get access to the additional in-game coverage during the rest of the season, though no others have been announced. But an NFL spokesman said Wednesday that it will only be for the Thursday-Saturday package and there are no plans for Sunday or Monday Web coverage.

And it is only a small portion of the subscribers to the NFL Network, now available in about 40 million homes.

"It's not disrupting anything that's already available," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "It's taking advantage of the current technology."

Beyond the Yahoo! deal outside North America, the NFL has a wireless deal with Sprint to carry everything but the live game coverage of the NFL Network on wireless as well as deals with Apple's iTunes.