Notre Dame football has been in a partnership with NBC for 30 years. In that time, Irish fans have been able to watch home games on their local NBC station, over-the-air and free, even as the digital age began in the last decade. A few games have been put on the soon-to-be defunct NBC Sports Network, and part of the 2020 Clemson game moved to USA when election coverage briefly pre-empted it, but NBC is where you could find most, if not all, of Notre Dame’s home games since 1991.
To begin the 2021 season, Notre Dame’s home opener against Toledo will not be on WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, WLWT-TV in Cincinnati and in general, no NBC affiliate will carry it. Instead, it will stream exclusively on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. This will require fans to download the Peacock app on a digital streaming device or their phone, sign up for its Premium package ($4.99/month) and then be able to watch.
Throughout the week, Notre Dame’s social media accounts have been reminding fans about the Peacock game by using “Parks & Recreation”, a show based in Indiana, on where to find the game…
There are many more posts like this, and if you take time to read the comments, a majority of people are not thrilled they have to pay for something they’ve been getting for free the past 30 years.
While it is not popular, and viewership may drop compared to past home openers, Notre Dame football being exclusively on Peacock for at least one game a season will become the norm.
Take a minute and count the number of streaming services you have. Probably close to a handful, right? Well, with people cutting their cable and as stated earlier, NBC ending its cable channel that was just for sports and moving content to USA or Peacock, streaming will be the norm as people look to save money, especially for sports.
The problem with the Peacock-only game is that you are making people pay $5 to watch a Notre Dame home game, when its normally free on network television. Also, think of the older Notre Dame fans. My grandfather, the patriarch of our big, Notre Dame-obsessed family, passed away at the age of 97 earlier this year, and if he wanted to watch this game, he could not watch it from the comfort of his home. They don’t have WiFi, no smartphones and I guarantee you, a lot of big, Notre Dame families are scrambling to ensure older relatives can watch.
This isn’t the first time NBC has frustrated Notre Dame fans.
The sideline skycam was something NBC Sports tried during NFL Preseason games, and then continued to use it when Notre Dame blew out New Mexico in 2019.
Take a look for yourself…
The angle was widely criticized by fans. It made for a less enjoyable, and sometime inducing experience while watching football. Eventually, NBC scrapped the idea, as it did not catch on the original skycam, which gave us the “Madden” video game angle.
While outcry over a camera ended that experiment, fans commenting that they will skip the game or go looking for an illegal stream online won’t stop NBC from putting at least one home game a season on Peacock.
As bad as it sounds that you have to pay $5 for the game, it’s not the worst deal out there.
When I lived in Oklahoma, I learned that one of the home games the Sooners play annually is a Pay-Per-View event through FOX Sports. The game is normally against one of the weaker opponents, and this year, it is their game this Saturday against Western Carolina. It will cost fans $55.
No wonder they’re fleeing the Big 12 for the SEC.
Like a lot of you, I will probably suck it up, go on the Peacock app and get premium for this game. There’s nothing wrong with Peacock. Compared to other streaming services, you get a lot of content for the monthly price, but when you take something that was free for decades and start charging a fee, you’ll ruffle some feathers. But don’t forget, Notre Dame fans are spoiled. It is a luxury to have your team on an over-the-air network for a majority of their games per season.
Perhaps Notre Dame is willing to bite the bullet and knows NBC will be pushing for more promotion of its sports coverage and to keep this long TV marriage intact, it requires some flexibility as the entertainment landscape changes.