The NFL and the Streaming Era

Estimated read time 4 min read

As the National Football League season kicks off with a bang, fans are in for a thrilling season. However, amidst the excitement, viewers will face a new challenge: finding where and how to watch their favorite NFL games. Gone are the days of simplicity when NFL games were broadcast on a handful of networks. In this article, we explore the evolving landscape of NFL broadcasting and why it has become more confusing than ever to watch an NFL game this season.

The NFL Changing the Broadcasting Landscape

The 2023 National Football League season marks a significant departure from tradition, with a multitude of networks and streaming platforms vying for the rights to air games. Many platforms such as Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN/ABC, the NFL’s own streaming app, Amazon and YouTube TV are all in the mix. This shift towards a diverse range of broadcast options is a direct response to the changing media and tech industries, with the NFL at the forefront of this revolution.

The NFL New Media Deals and Streaming Expansion

In 2021, the National Football League signed media deals worth over $100 billion spanning 11 years, ushering in a new era for football broadcasting. Paramount, Disney (ESPN/ABC), and Comcast (NBC) are pouring massive investments into their streaming services, viewing them as the future of their businesses. To entice subscribers, these media giants are showcasing more NFL games on their streaming platforms, some exclusively.

The National Football League Declining Traditional TV

Traditional broadcast and cable television are experiencing a rapid decline in viewership, making the NFL more crucial than ever in holding the pay-TV bundle together. According to media analysts at MoffettNathanson, the NFL serves as the “glue” that keeps pay-TV subscriptions intact, especially considering the decline in viewership for non-sports programming.

Streaming Milestones

The previous season represented a pivotal moment, with viewers gaining the ability to utilize streaming services for three out of the five National Football League game packages. The upcoming 2023 season introduces further advancements, such as NFL Sunday Ticket becoming available on YouTube, the introduction of a playoff game exclusively for streaming on Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video’s exclusive game on Black Friday. ESPN+ is set to air an international NFL game exclusively, while Amazon retains exclusive rights to Thursday night games, pioneering the exclusive streaming of NFL packages.

The Singular Importance

The NFL’s significance cannot be overstated. In an era where live viewership is dwindling, football remains a rare event that millions watch live, attracting advertisers willing to pay a premium. With the exception of the Super Bowl, the National Football League constituted over 50% of Fox’s audience share in the previous season, while making up approximately one-third of CBS and NBC’s viewership. It stands out as the cornerstone of network ratings and advertising earnings throughout the autumn TV season, setting itself apart from all other types of linear content.

Broadcast Networks and Streaming Platforms

To cater to this widespread audience, the NFL now spreads its games across various networks and streaming platforms. NBC airs “Sunday Night Football” during prime time on both traditional television and the Peacock platform, while Fox features games from the National Football Conference on its broadcast network. CBS, on the other hand, televises American Football Conference games on its network and Paramount+. Moreover, CBS, the broadcaster with exclusive Super Bowl rights, will also showcase the game on the Nickelodeon network. ESPN handles “Monday Night Football” games on both ESPN and ESPN+. Finally, Amazon Prime Video possesses sole privileges for broadcasting Thursday night games.

The National Football League Own Streaming Aspirations

The NFL itself is embracing the streaming revolution. Following an almost three-decade-long partnership with satellite service provider DirecTV, the NFL Sunday Ticket package, which delivers all out-of-market NFL games to fans, has taken a daring step by shifting to YouTube TV, which is under the ownership of Google. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed this move as part of their strategy to embrace increased digital distribution, a clear indication of their forward-looking approach.

In the midst of the 2023 NFL season’s excitement, fans must adapt to a rapidly changing broadcasting landscape. The NFL’s expanding reach across various networks and streaming platforms reflects its immense value in today’s media landscape. While it may be more confusing than ever to watch an NFL game this season, it also offers viewers greater flexibility and accessibility than ever before. As the NFL continues to blaze a trail in the streaming era, football fans can look forward to a thrilling and evolving viewing experience.

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