The news that the Wisconsin Badgers' visit to Chicago's Soldier Field to play Northern Illinois won't be televised has been met with a resounding shrug this week. Maybe that's because fans expecting an easy win over the mid-major Huskies are already looking ahead to the Big Ten opener against Nebraska on Oct. 1.
But it also might have to do with the availability of the game on ESPN3.com, the network's online-only channel. Hardcore fans, particularly those of soccer or college teams, are becoming more accustomed to turning to the Internet to watch their favorite teams. Video from the Rugby World Cup, which is being played in New Zealand, is available almost exclusively online for those who don't have a fancy satellite setup, and the annual NCAA basketball tournament has been available on CBS's website for years.
Just this month, Microsoft's Xbox Live gaming platform updated its ESPN3 app with some nice features, including split-screen options and voice controls for the Kinect. The hitch is that you can get ESPN3 only with affiliated service providers like Charter. That assures cable companies won't be left out in the cold as consumers move away from cable's one-size-fits-all approach to the more customizable Internet options.
Technical obstacles aside, these innovations are good news for sports fans fed up with what the traditional networks are giving them. You can now view Bundesliga soccer, minor league baseball and high school football via the Net. High-definition broadcasts fed directly to your wide-screen TV are next. The days of having to settle for whatever games the network finds most profitable are close to being over.