Boxing was once shown for free on commercial TV but now all the big events are on Pay-per-view or on a premium channel such as HBO or Showtime. Mixed martial arts started off on PPV and that hasn't changed for the big events. For better or for worst, PPV is here to stay. Additionally, the NFL is a sophisticated money-making machine and there isn't any doubt that they have thought about PPV. Let's run the numbers.
For Superbowl XLVII nearly 114 million Americans tuned into the game. To get a perspective, the biggest PPV event to date is the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight in 2007 which generated 2.48 million buys. However, the Mayweather-Canelo fight of 2013 exceeded 2 million and may have been greater than 2.48 million buys once the final tabulations are in. The pricing for the Mayweather-Canelo fight was $65 for standard definition and $75 for hi-definition.
First, let's start with the pricing. The average cell phone bill is somewhere around $70/month and I think it's pretty easy to equate this special Superbowl PPV event as just a one-time extra cell phone payment or alternatively the average NFL ticket price for a regular season game is approximately $80 so that works as well. I really don't believe that you can start off with a Superbowl PPV at triple digits (e.g. $100), so pricing of $75 for standard definition and $85 for hi-definition seems to be something that would be considered fair and would be acceptable to the general public.
How many buys would be generated? The Superbowl is almost an all-day event to begin with but you could maybe add further to it by coming up with exclusive access to pregame activities involving the preparation of the big game and also the postgame activities, which would truly provide you with one-of-a-kind, full, complete and comprehensive coverage. Consequently, nothing of substance would be programmed against this once-in-a-year event.
Another thing to take into consideration is much like a boxing event, the Superbowl is an experience in which the typical audience is made up of friends, family, fellow workers, etc., and so with each person contributing their fair share the PPV price doesn't appear prohibitive at all. This would probably equate to a very high buy rate, perhaps as large as 25 million peoples and using a $80 average buy rate, the overall initial gross would be $2 billion and that estimate is truly conservative; additionally this hasn't taken into consideration the PPV at movie theatres showing the Superbowl, or PPV at bars, overseas revenues, or revenues generated from commercials.
Obviously the biggest supporters of the PPV event would be the owners in the NFL, the players, and the bars which should see their business revenues jump. The biggest loser would be the general public but with the NFL being the most popular sport and this being a once-in-a-year event, that public would probably suck it up and get use to it. There is little doubt that this Superbowl PPV is coming, it is inevitable.