NBC clarifies ‘Old Mac’ problems for Sunday Night Football streaming: Newer OS required

If you are still wondering why you can’t see NBC’s streaming broadcast of its Sunday Night Football games on your Mac, I now have an answer: It’s because you’re running an older operating system, older than Mac OS version 10.7.5.

After a special-to-MSR telephone confab with some technical folks on NBC’s staff last week we quickly rooted out why I was able to see the banners and home page of the Sunday Night online broadcasts but not the live video player: According to the NBC folks, my older iMac and its 10.6.8 version of MacOS isn’t technically up to snuff for the special player NBC is using for the Sunday night show.

New error message shown by NBC's Sunday Night Football online to older Mac users. Credit: NBC.

New error message shown by NBC’s Sunday Night Football online to older Mac users. Credit: NBC.

Mind you, my not-that-old desktop does just fine showing every other NBC online offering, including the recent live broadcasts of the America’s Cup sailboat races, or the London Olympics. And for those I can use the browser of my choice, usually Chrome and sometimes Firefox. But because of the NFL’s recent deal with Microsoft, NBC is forced to use a different video player for its Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Though they aren’t completely blocked for Mac users who want to watch, they must have a machine with MacOS 10.7.5 or higher, and can only use the Safari browser. I will spare you the HTML5-related details why this is so, to only say that if you have a Mac and you want to watch SNF online, you need to upgrade your OS, make sure you have Safari 6.0.5 or higher, and turn off any ad-blocking utilities.

Is it worth the pain for you to upgrade your OS? I have no idea how you’d exactly go about doing so, I’ve looked at a few online tutorials but really it’s just not worth it for me (I think there is also a $19.99 charge from Apple for the software). I don’t blame NBC here, I actually can’t praise them enough for marshaling some pretty impressive resources to find the root of the problem for our humble little outlet and our devoted, passionate readers. After our inquiries, NBC also started showing the error message above to users of older Mac platforms, so they wouldn’t wander in the dark questioning their own sanity, like I did for the first few weeks of the season.

Instead I point the finger at the Shield and at Microsoft, for forging some deal that alienates some users solely so that the NFL can spend some more Microsoft cash, and so Microsoft can strike a blow against Apple that it can’t do in open competition. Bravo. Fan first, you know.

If I may editorialize a bit, I would say that the NFL gets away with cutting these bad-for-fan deals (like the exclusive deal with Verizon for NFL Mobile) because it’s so big and powerful that it can. What other entertainment outlet would cut a deal that would only allow 1/3 of the U.S. mobile phone customer base to watch their product? And what about when that service goes kablooey and there’s nobody explaining why? And the Microsoft deal, which cuts off older Mac customers from Sunday night football now and who knows what else in the future, is just another greed-driven strategic ploy that only benefits the NFL and Microsoft, and does nothing for fans.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the NFL moves more toward an MLB-type offering for online video and highlights, a move that we foresee even though we don’t have any solid evidence of it yet. Will the NFL cut deals to restrict access to selected hardware or software platforms? Is this a return to the bad old days of browser cutoffs? Is there a Net Neutrality argument in here somewhere?

Extreme thoughts, maybe, but who would have thought that in 2013 we’d see an entertainment outlet as popular as the NFL limit the capabilities of one technological platform versus another simply because it was paid to do so? And not just once, but several times? Aren’t we paying enough for football as it is? Or should we just get used to paying more, because we have no choice and apparently no seat at the table?

NBC’s Sunday Night Football Fails Continue for Mac Users; UPDATE: Problem Diagnosed

UPDATE, 9/30: After a quick call with NBC’s tech folks Monday the problem was discovered: Due to new HTML5 code NBC is using that is specific to its Sunday Night Football broadcasts, Mac users need to have MacOS version 10.7 or higher installed to see the player. Like many users who haven’t been able to see the Sunday Night online broadcasts, my machine is running Mac OS 10.6.8. There is no workaround, so to watch Sunday Night Football on a Mac you will need to upgrade your OS, which costs $19.99. Here is a link to Apple support spelling out the details, if anyone has done this recently and wants to share the steps, send me an email and I will print it in a separate blog post.

Until someone explains to us why this is happening, we’re going to keep reporting that it appears that online streaming of NBC’s Sunday Night Football isn’t working for a lot of people with Apple Macintosh computers.

Just teasing! The program never really begins.

Just teasing! The program never really begins.

An NBC spokesperson this week had promised to put us in touch with someone from their technical team, but we never got another message back, so another Sunday night we are stuck without football on our computer. What’s even more ironic tonight is that for the first time some video did appear — but it was just an ad for Google Chrome, which of course, NBC doesn’t support this football season if you are a Mac user. You need to use Safari. But for us and several folks commenting to our site, it still isn’t working. For me, the Google ad played and then the screen went back to black.

Instead of Sunday night football, this is what I see. Anyone else having these problems? Add a comment, maybe we can get NBC to realize something ain't right.

Instead of Sunday night football, this is what I see. Anyone else having these problems? Add a comment, maybe we can get NBC to realize something ain’t right.

At first I thought there might be some error on my end but I checked my configurations with the FAQs on the NBC site and my machine is up to speed. Plus, I am able to watch plenty of non-NFL coverage, including the excellent coverage of the final race of the America’s Cup. Great stuff, live on my computer. But for some reason the NFL broadcasts aren’t working.

I’m going to lay the blame here at the feet of Microsoft, since it is apparently the Microsoft-NFL deal that is responsible for the disabling of Macintosh computers. Didn’t Microsoft once lose an antitrust suit designed in part to keep it from using its economic might to squash competing technologies? Someone get me Google’s legal team on the line.

Arrgh, now we're back to the super fail screen.

Arrgh, now we’re back to the super fail screen.