Aaron Rodgers, #8 of the New York Jets, warms up prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Aug. 26, 2023.
Mike Stobe | Getty Images
On any given Sunday, there will be more National Football League games available on streaming services than ever before — some even exclusively.
The NFL season kicks off Thursday with the Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Detroit Lions. Since the season opener is considered a “Sunday Night Football” game on the schedule, NBCUniversal will air the game on both its broadcast network and streaming app, Peacock.
This more aggressive shift toward streaming comes after several seasons of companies such as Paramount Global, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Disney‘s ESPN showing games simultaneously on streaming services and traditional TV. Now, media companies are bulking up their streaming platforms with more exclusive content in hopes of not only signing up more subscribers, but also locking them in as long-term customers.
Later in the season, Peacock, along with Disney’s ESPN+ and Amazon, will have games that will be streamed only. Google’s YouTube TV and the NFL’s streaming service will also become bigger players in the streaming game.
Streaming may also play a bigger role in NFL viewership as Disney’s networks have gone dark for customers of cable-TV provider Charter Communications, which could coax football fans to opt for internet TV bundles such as Fubo.
When media giants signed NFL media rights deals in 2021, valued at more than $100 billion, more of those deals included the rights to streaming games. Plus, in this past year, the NFL sold the media rights to its “Sunday Ticket” to Google‘s YouTube TV for about $2 billion annually, shifting access to the package of out-of-market games to a streaming-only audience.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had pushed for a streaming-only home for “Sunday Ticket,” saying in the months ahead of closing the deal that he thought it was “best for consumers at this stage. “
Who is streaming the NFL?”
More NFL games are now available through streaming services as well as their broadcast and pay TV homes. However, this season, more games will be exclusively available on these platforms. NBCUniversal began simultaneously broadcasting “Sunday Night Football,” on NBC as well as Peacock, earlier this season. Its first-ever regular season game on Peacock happens late in the season in December when the Buffalo Bills take on the Los Angeles Chargers.
The first-ever NFL wild card playoff game to be solely streamed occurs shortly after that on Jan. 13 on Peacock.
“Expanding the digital distribution of NFL content while maintaining wide reach for our games continues to be a key priority for the league, and bringing the excitement of an NFL playoff game exclusively to Peacock’s streaming platform is the next step in that strategy,” Hans Schroeder, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media, said in a release earlier this year.
The NFL has been a vehicle for attracting more Peacock subscribers, Comcast executives have said on recent investor calls. Peacock had 24 million subscribers as of June 30.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ Skyy Moore celebrates scoring a touchdown, Feb. 12, 2023.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
“Sunday Night Football,” the top-rated prime-time show on TV, averaged nearly 20 million viewers last year, and its Peacock audience has been slowly growing in the single-digit percentage range.
Paramount+ also airs games on both broadcast network CBS and its Paramount+ platform, although it doesn’t have any exclusive offerings. Fox Corp., which also owns the rights to Sunday NFL games, doesn’t stream games other than through its authenticated app, which requires a pay-TV subscription.
Disney, which holds the rights to “Monday Night Football,” will air an international NFL game exclusively on its ESPN+ platform for the second time since last season.
Other than this, games that exclusively air on Disney’s broadcast network ABC will also be on ESPN+, as well as some “Monday Night Football” games that air on ESPN. ESPN+ has 25.2 million subscribers. This is a significant increase from the previous month. Disney alerted Charter customers they can subscribe to internet TV bundles such as its Hulu + Live TV.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s Prime Video, which enters its second season as the home of “Thursday Night Football,” will exclusively stream the first-ever Black Friday game after Thanksgiving this year, which will see the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins.
Amazon’s inaugural “Thursday Night Football” game last season attracted more than 13 million viewers, the most streamed game ever, according to Nielsen. Amazon’s debut “Thursday Night Football” game saw a record number of Prime subscriptions in a 3-hour period. This is the first time that the package has been shifted away from DirecTV satellite TV provider. Cohen said it depends. Cohen said that “one of three things will happen.” Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal which owns CNBC.