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Could the NFL Create Their Own Paid Streaming Service to Watch Live Games?

Matt Tamanini

Much of the discussion around the NFL’s media rights have been rightly focused on where the lucrative NFL Sunday Ticket would land after the league’s current deal with DirecTV expires following the 2022 season. Apple, Amazon, and Disney have all reportedly made pitches to the league for the package, with Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video — the new home for Thursday Night Football — currently the leading candidates. Landing the out-of-market live rights would be a huge boon for either of the streaming services.

But, since the league doesn’t need to find a new home for Sunday Ticket until 2023, apparently they are refocusing on a more immediate streaming option.

On Monday, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan reported that the NFL is currently developing its own streaming service. The plan was first unveiled at the NFL owners’ meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. last weekend, and while plans are reportedly still in the very early stages, the service is tentatively being priced at $5 per month and being referred to as (what else?) NFL+.

The league has been streaming games for years, first with Verizon on mobile devices before expanding to other services and with Yahoo! on tablets and computers. But, those deals are set to expire in 2023, so in lieu of finding a new partner — or perhaps in hopes of driving up the asking price from one — the NFL is at work on launching its own in-house streamer for the upcoming season this fall.

The proposed platform would feature live televised games, radio broadcasts, podcasts, and other team-specific content. It seems to be an expansion of what is currently available on [NFL Game Pass].

Currently, NFL Game Pass, which costs $99.99 per year, includes live audio broadcasts and a replay of every game including 45 minute condensed telecasts. The service also provides additional feeds including “All-22” film and Coaches Film. During the preseason, NFL Game Pass also streams all out-of-market games live, similar to NFL Sunday Ticket during the regular season.

The NFL has also offered a mobile streaming option of NFL RedZone for $34.99 a season.

Intentionally though, NFL Game Pass is more similar to NFL Sunday Ticket, and often includes NFL Network and NFL RedZone.

In addition to the mobile streaming and Sunday Ticket rights, the NFL is also shopping a stake in NFL Media, the umbrella company that includes the NFL Network and NFL.com. Apple is reportedly interested in purchasing all three sets of rights. Kaplan notes that if Apple or Amazon does end up securing some portion of ownership in NFL Media, it is possible that they could be involved in the future development of NFL+.

Previously, the NFL only allowed for streaming of in-market games, but there was no specification as to what types of rights their own streamer could potentially have. However, given the multi-billion dollar asking price for Sunday Ticket, it is unlikely that consumers would be able to stream all games from around the league, unless NFL+ is folded into the eventual deal for Sunday Ticket.

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