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NFL Replacing Pro Bowl with Skills Competitions, Flag Football Game; Will It Become a Streaming Exclusive?

David Satin

NFL fans have been complaining about the Pro Bowl for years, with many players backing them up. The NFL’s all-star game is frequently criticized as a glorified flag football game, with players reluctant to go full-speed for an exhibition matchup that offers very little in the way of tangible rewards, but still carries the same injury risks as any other NFL contest.

As of the 2022 season, however, NFL fans will have to find another outlet for their postseason exhibition frustrations as it has been reported that ccording to the league has decided to sunset the Pro Bowl for good. It will be replaced by a weeklong skills competition, culminating in an AFC vs. NFC flag football game in Las Vegas. The proceedings will now be known as “The Pro Bowl Games.”

“The Pro Bowl is something that we’ve been looking at for a while, really continuing to evolve,” NFL executive Peter O’Reilly told The Associated Press. “Coming out of last year’s game, we really made the decision based on a lot of internal conversations, getting feedback from GMs and coaches, getting a lot of feedback from players. We think there’s a real opportunity to do something wholly different here and move away from the traditional tackle football game. We decided the goal is to celebrate 88 of the biggest stars in the NFL in a really positive, fun, yet competitive way.”

One of the most notable facets of the announcement of the Pro Bowl’s demise is the involvement of Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions in the development and promotion of “The Pro Bowl Games.” Omaha Productions is also responsible for producing the popular “ManningCast” alternative stream of “Monday Night Football” which appears on ESPN2 and ESPN+, as well as a number of other sports-related properties often found on streaming.

“The Pro Bowl has always been a time to step back and celebrate the game of football with teammates, fans and family,” Manning told the AP. “I’m thankful I can continue to be part of the week as all of us at Omaha Productions work with the NFL to reimagine The Pro Bowl Games.”

Manning’s involvement might lead some to wonder if part or all of “The Pro Bowl Games” will be streaming exclusives.

There are a few reasons to believe the answer will be “yes.” As mentioned above, Omaha Productions already has a season’s worth of experience with a streaming football product in the “ManningCast.” Competitors have been quick to adopt the alternative “ManningCast” stream model, including Prime Video, which offers several simultaneous streams of “Thursday Night Football.”

While the culminating flag football game might make the most sense to air on broadcast or cable TV, but the other events seem perfect for a streaming setup.

Another reason “The Pro Bowl Games” might be sent exclusively to streaming is the proposed format for the games. A weeklong skills competition will be difficult to convince linear networks to make time for, even if the biggest stars in the NFL participate. Streaming’s flexibility will allow the league to be creative in scheduling and showcasing particular players and skills.

Finally, moving “The Pro Bowl Games” to streaming-only will not only help rebrand the event itself, but it could also help the NFL raise the profile of NFL+. The league launched its over-the-top streaming service earlier this year, but it’s been a rocky start for NFL+ so far, with many fans experiencing functionality issues.

NFL+ would offer a ready-made home for “The Pro Bowl Games,” and if it’s successful, using NFL+ to showcase the weeklong event would allow the league to have its cake and eat it, too.

NFL+

NFL+ allows fans to watch live local and primetime games on mobile and tablet devices. And with an NFL+ Premium subscription, you can watch replays of every single game without ads, condensed game replays, and coaches film. The service also allows fans to choose their audio stream (home, away, and national calls).

The service also allows users to watch out-of-market preseason games on any device. Users can also access NFL library programming ad-free.

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