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NFL Films Headed to Netflix? Why That Might Not Be The Case

Jeff Kotuby

A report by The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan apparently has the NFL linking up with Netflix to distribute NFL Films productions — but a deeper look at the quotes might reveal a similar, but not exact, destination for the content.

The original report mentions that the NFL is looking to sell equity in NFL Films separately from NFL Media (the NFL's website, NFL Network, and NFL RedZone, something the league has been trying to do for months; this would also likely be separate from the NFL Sunday Ticket broadcast rights. According to one team executive who was in the room for a recent presentation by the league, NFL Films should be a valuable commodity for whoever buys it.

“If you think about NFL Films … it’s a robust library with documentary power,” said a team official who was in the room for the presentation.

“You could see ‘Hard Knocks’ and all of those things being sold similar to Formula One or PGA right on a Netflix service. The reason I say Netflix is because some of the examples (the NFL executives presenting) gave were … that there’s a lack of quote-unquote, sports content, not games, but sports content, long-form, short-form, similar to a ‘Drive to Survive,’ right now you have the Showtime Lakers thing.”

Notice how the exec says “on a Netflix service” — but not Netflix. It’s almost like the exec is referring to Netflix the same way that we refer to all adhesive bandages as “Band-Aids” and all tissues as “Kleenexes.”

While there is a distinct opportunity for Netflix to add sports content to its service — and the interest is in fact mutual — the NFL might want to have more control over its narrative and won’t give Netflix the amount of freedom that the service has received from F1 and the PGA Tour.

We’d likely see a very over-produced look at the NFL in the way that many athlete documentaries on Amazon Prime Video are written, with the natural trade-off that the subject provides unprecedented coverage of their personal lives in order to be portrayed in a very positive light.

It just so happens that the NFL has a very close relationship with Amazon in multiple facets of their business. The obvious is that Amazon is the new exclusive streaming home to “Thursday Night Football,” but Amazon also provides the NFL with its “Next Gen Stats” through Amazon Web Services. Amazon could wind up being a more natural destination for the NFL Films library — but don’t rule out Netflix. It’s the top dog in streaming for a reason and could swoop in and grab premier sports content for its platform.

But Amazon isn’t the only tech giant in the conversation for these rights, as last month, it was reported that Apple was also interested in securing all of the NFL's available media rights, including those for Sunday Ticket and NFL Media.

The Athletic indicates that the league is interested in distributing their rights to as many platforms as possible in order to expand and diversify their reach as much as they can. So it is a distinct possibility that Netflix, Prime Video, and Apple TV+ could split the currently unclaimed rights in some form or fashion moving forward.

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    Starting in the 2022 season, Prime Video offers exclusive live access to NFL’s Thursday Night Football.

    Prime Video is included with Amazon Prime for $12.99 per month ($119 per year), or can be purchased on its own for $8.99 per month.

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