Football and NFL are shifting toward streaming, away from regular television

Aaron Rodgers, number 8 of the New York Jets, warms up before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, August 26, 2023.

Mike Stobe | Getty Images

Every Sunday, more National Football League games will be available on streaming services than ever before – some of them exclusive.

The NFL season begins Thursday with the Detroit Lions hosting the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Since the season opener is scheduled to be a “Sunday Night Football” game, NBCUniversal will broadcast the game on both its broadcast network and its streaming app Peacock.

This more aggressive shift towards streaming comes after several seasons from companies such as Paramount GlobalComcast’s NBCUniversal and DisneyESPN shows games simultaneously on streaming services and traditional television. Now media companies are populating their streaming platforms with more exclusive content in hopes of not only attracting more subscribers but also retaining them as long-term customers.

Later in the season, Peacock will join Disney’s ESPN+ and Amazon in offering streaming-only games. Google’s YouTube TV and the NFL’s streaming service are also becoming bigger players in the streaming space.

Streaming could also play a larger role in NFL viewership since the Disney networks are no longer available to cable TV provider customers Charter communicationwhich could make football fans opt for internet TV packages like Fubo.

As media giants signed NFL media rights deals worth more than $100 billion in 2021, more of those deals included game streaming rights. The NFL also sold the media rights to its “Sunday Ticket” last year Googlefor about $2 billion a year on YouTube TV, shifting access to the out-of-print games package to a streaming-only audience.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had advocated for a streaming-only offering for “Sunday Ticket,” saying in the months leading up to the deal that he believed it was “the best thing for consumers at this time.”

Who streams the NFL?

More and more NFL games are being offered on streaming services in addition to their broadcasts and pay-TV homes, but this season there will be more games available exclusively outside of the traditional TV ecosystem.

“I don’t think simulcasts have had a significant impact on streaming services, which is why they’re pushing a lot exclusively to those platforms,” said Daniel Cohen, executive vice president of global media legal advisory at Octagon.

Two exclusive games will be broadcast on NBCUniversal’s Peacock this season. NBCUniversal previously began airing “Sunday Night Football” simultaneously on NBC and Peacock. The first-ever regular season game on Peacock will take place toward the end of the season in December when the Buffalo Bills take on the Los Angeles Chargers.

The NFL’s first wild-card playoff game to be streamed only will take place shortly thereafter on Jan. 13 on Peacock.

“Expanding the digital distribution of NFL content while maintaining broad reach for our games remains a top priority for the league, and bringing the excitement of an NFL playoff game exclusively to Peacock’s streaming platform is the next step in this strategy,” Hans Schroeder, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media, said in a release earlier this year.

The NFL was a vehicle to attract more Peacock subscribers, Comcast executives said in recent investor calls. Peacock had 24 million subscribers as of June 30.

Skyy Moore of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates his touchdown on February 12, 2023.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

“Sunday Night Football,” the highest-rated prime-time show on television, averaged Last year there were nearly 20 million viewers, and Peacock’s audience has been slowly growing in the single digits.

Paramount+ also airs games on both the CBS network and its Paramount+ platform, although there are no exclusive offerings. Fox Corp., which also owns the rights to Sunday NFL games, does not broadcast games except through its authenticated app, which requires a pay-TV subscription.

Disney, which owns the rights to “Monday Night Football,” will broadcast an international NFL game exclusively on its ESPN+ platform for the second time since last season.

Otherwise games that exclusively Air on Disney’s network ABC will also be available on ESPN+, as well as some “Monday Night Football” games airing on ESPN. ESPN+ had 25.2 million subscribers as of July 1.

Depending on how long the transmission blackout lasts between cable companies, more people could turn to streaming services to watch “Monday Night Football” this season Charter and Disney drags on. Disney alerted charter customers that they could subscribe to Internet TV packages such as Hulu + Live TV.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s Prime Video, entering its second season as the home of “Thursday Night Football,” will do so exclusively Stream the first Black Friday game after Thanksgiving this year as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins.

Amazon’s first “Thursday Night Football” game drew more than 13 million viewers last season, the most-streamed game ever, according to Nielsen. During the same game, Amazon saw a record number of Prime sign-ups in three hours during its debut game.

Additionally, those who want to watch out-of-market games on Sunday Ticket will need to subscribe to YouTube TV, moving the package away from satellite TV provider DirecTV for the first time.

The league’s own NFL+ is also becoming one fleshed This year, the company is offering access to NFL Network and NFL RedZone channels.

But will these exclusive games be enough to move the needle? It depends, Cohen said.

“One of three things will happen,” Cohen said. “Fans will not care enough to dip into their wallets for a subscription, or they will sign up for a free trial and cancel after the games, or they will pirate the game.”

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC. Football and NFL are shifting toward streaming, away from regular television

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