If it wasn’t obvious enough that the NFL is focusing its attention on streaming and putting its product online instead of just television, 2023 is going to be a wake-up call. On the heels of its deal with Amazon that put Thursday night games exclusively online, the NFL announced that for the first time, a playoff game will only be accessible through an online stream.
Yesterday, the league announced that the Saturday night game on Wild Card weekend will only be shown on NBC’s Peacock, its streaming service, except for the local markets for those two teams. Meaning, if the Steelers are playing in that slot and you don’t live in Pittsburgh (or their opponent’s market), you better have a strong Internet connection. Because that’s the only way you’re watching it.
“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,” said NFL Executive VP and COO of NFL Media Hans Schroeder via ESPN.
Which is basically marketing speak for “get bent, cable users.”
The league had previously announced Peacock would be the exclusive home to one regular-season game in 2023, a December 23rd contest between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers. Now, its adding a playoff game on top of that, sending a clear signal of where the sport is headed. It’s not known what game that will be, an NFC or AFC contest.
What does the NFL get out of the agreement? According to The Wall Street Journal, this one-year deal will net the league $110 million. Understandably, the fan reaction has been negative and those who dislike online services to watch the NFL are going to have a tough year. Amazon will continue to rule Thursday Night Football while the league ditched DirectTV in favor of putting games on YouTube for several hundred dollars a season. Now to watch one of this year’s playoff games, fans will have to sign up for Peacock. According to its site, the basic plans costs $5 a month while the premium plan, without ads, will cost $10 per month (though for a football game, you’ll probably still be stuck watching commercials).
Though the NFL will primarily remain on TV in the long-term, the league is obviously chipping away at television’s presence and testing what the fan reaction, not to mention the revenue, looks like. Given how popular the sport is, fans will go to where games are. They’ll keep their Amazon Prime account, they’ll buy YouTube TV, they’ll ask their son/daughter how you sign up for NBC Peacock. All while those companies and the league rake in tons of cash. It’s toothpaste that isn’t headed back for the tube. It’ll be a long and slow process but one day, perhaps the only way to watch football will be through your computer, not your cable provider.