When the air turns cool and the leaves begin to change color, many Americans see it as a sign that football season is here. The NFL has long been the dominant sport in the American media landscape, and its ratings reflect that: NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” has been the most-watched primetime television show for the last 11 years, and is the most-watched primetime show of 2022 through three weeks of the season.
The NFL is not only continuing to dominate linear television, it has also started to expand more meaningfully into streaming over the past year. The league sold the rights for “Thursday Night Football” to Prime Video, marking the first season that games have been available exclusively on streaming. The popular “ManningCast” alternative broadcast of “Monday Night Football” will stream on ESPN+ nine times during the regular season, and for one playoff game.
The NFL experimented with streaming “MNF” and “TNF” last year, but both were on a smaller scale. “Monday Night Football” only had a few “ManningCast” broadcasts on streaming, and Thursday night games were shown via linear TV as well as on Prime Video. Those experiments must have gone well enough to convince the league to go ahead with its own over-the-top (OTT), direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service, because the league launched the two-tiered NFL+ just before the start of the 2022 season.
While NFL+ users have experienced some frustration with the service since its launch, the league has to be encouraged by the early returns from a financial standpoint. According to numbers from AppFigures, the NFL has already brought in $10.5 million from NFL+ and NFL+ Premium since the services launched.
The app exploded during the first week of the season, bringing in $1 million in the course of just a couple of days. If there was any doubt left in the mind of league executives regarding the viability of a streaming-only NFL product, that doubt is likely gone by now. The question now becomes the longevity, since the league previously earned $1B for the mobile streaming rights in a deal with Verizon.
The data is also another encouraging sign for the league as it prepares to shift its out-of-market package NFL Sunday Ticket to a streaming-only format next year. This is the last season of Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV, and many industry insiders expect the announcement of Sunday Ticket’s new home to be made before the end of this year.
Those insiders also believe that Apple is still the frontrunner to land Sunday Ticket, which would mean the package would head to Apple TV+. Last week, Apple Music reached a five-year deal to sponsor the Super Bowl Halftime Show, starting at the end of the current season, so the two sides have clearly been in contact.
Despite the mounting evidence of the NFL’s viability as a streaming product, don't expect the league to become streaming-only anytime soon. The NFL has broadcast rights agreements on linear TV until 2032, and that contract is worth $110 billion. It would take an astounding financial commitment to move the NFL off broadcast TV, a commitment that even the biggest tech companies likely couldn’t make alone.
NFL Sunday Ticket is a subscription video streaming service that allows football fans to watch every live out-of-market NFL game on Sunday afternoons. It is included free for new DirecTV subscribers (allowing streaming through the NFL Sunday Ticket App), or it can be purchased as a standalone streaming product if you live in a dorm or apartment without access to the satellite version of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Unlike NFL RedZone, which bounces from game to game, Sunday Ticket is superior for fans who want to see every play of their favorite teams, even if they don’t live where the games are locally televised.
Sunday Ticket offers three plans: the Student Plan for $99.96 / Jahr, the To Go Plan for $293.96 / Jahr, and the Max Plan for $395.99 / Jahr.