The National Football League has in recent years begun to dabble with packaging their product with a variety of digital streaming services, seemingly in preparation for a brighter and bolder future in the realm of over-the-top broadcasting.
A couple of years back, they dipped their toe in the water by having Yahoo! Stream one game of Thursday Night Football. That deal switched to Twitter for last season and expanded the number of games being broadcast.
This year, the league is partnering with Amazon on a deal that reportedly weighs in at roughly $50 billion. While that is a paltry sum in comparison to the highly lucrative television contracts that the NFL has agreed to in recent years—the primary source of the massive salary cap inflation in the past half-decade—it speaks toward the approaching horizon.
That is, if you ask New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who recently was interviewed on a variety of topics, as the New York Post reports. He spoke of a “dramatic shift” in how media is being consumed over the course of the past decade, and even in their own platform. “This year we’re with Amazon and for us the future is OTT”, he said, referring to over-the-top content.
What is behind all this? Why, millennials, of course, the culprit behind seemingly everything these days.
“The thing we have to be careful of is millennials”, Kraft said during his interview. “They don’t watch TV, they don’t have TVs or subscribe to cable. So we have to bring that audience in. Partly it’s done through fantasy games and linking to that. Over-the-top is a great opportunity”.
Of course, it would be hard to deny the truth of what he says, as the statistics bear that out. Younger consumers are far less likely to have a cable television subscription, yet are far more likely to stream digital content, and to do so in multiple ways.
“We’ll be very interested to see how Amazon goes as it’s behind the paywall”, Kraft added. That could speak toward a broader intention to incorporate their digital broadcasting services with their live content, which has been a niche sorely in need of revisiting.
This is of course a market that has been under the boot of DirecTV for the longest time, but as the NFL continues to plow further and further ahead into the digital realm, it would be hard to imagine them continuing to shoehorn themselves into a one-service deal that is somewhat specialized.
One would think that they have to know they can reach a much larger audience with a more inclusive means of distributing live content, and I frankly would be surprised if this isn’t on the agenda.
Obviously, this would be a boon for out-of-market fans who are routinely unable to watch the majority of their favorite team’s games unless they have satellite. Every other major league offers live digital streaming. It’s time for the NFL to join the ranks.