Next year, CBS will broadcast the Super Bowl for the first time since 2013. When it does, it will send the game not just to its traditional television viewers or its mobile app, but to Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and Xbox One, all for free, with no authentication required. For a very specific subset of sports-loving cord-cutters, Christmas has come early.
The most common complaint about cutting the cord is that you can’t reliably watch sports, or other marquee live events like the Oscars. Workarounds like antennas or streaming television packages like Sling TV can be either clunky or unreliable. And previous adventures in bringing big events online for the masses have been hamstrung by a variety of limitations. ABC required cable subscription authentication to watch the Oscars, despite originating on a broadcast network—that is, as an event ostensibly viewable for free. NBC made last year’s Super Bowl available without authentication, but only on mobile apps and on the web. The network also streamed its Sunday night games on mobile apps, but required authentication for those. CBS has streamed AFC playoff games in the past with no authentication required, but only on mobile apps. It gets confusing.
You’ll simply need to open the CBS Sports app on the set-top box of your choice and hope you bought enough dip.
This year’s Super Bowl—along with a Thanksgiving NFL game, and another played in London—will suffer no such streaming restrictions. You won’t need to prove you have cable or buy an ungainly antenna to view it. You’ll simply need to open the CBS Sports app on the set-top box of your choice and hope you bought enough dip.
“There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach with our streaming rights/offerings, and we always want to make sure we offer the best user experience for each event,” says CBS Interactive spokesperson Annie Rohrs.
That’s a huge relief those who have abandoned live TV altogether in their quest for streaming liberation, and who weren’t planning to watch the Super Bowl at a friend’s house or bar. That’s likely a minuscule fraction, though, of the more than 100 million people who tune into the biggest game in sports every year. Which means, says streaming media analyst Dan Rayburn, that we shouldn’t read too much into it.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal at all, frankly,” says Rayburn, who argues that most people already have access to CBS either through cable or an antenna set-up. “It’s nice that it’s available on things other than apps, but if you’re in front a of a big TV to begin with, why wouldn’t you watch it on broadcast?”