This is What the New NFL TV Deal Means for Cord-Cutters
The NFL recently completed its massive rights deal with many of the top broadcast networks in the country, including CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN. But the deal includes some streaming-exclusive games, which means true football fans will need to add those services if they want to keep up with all the action.
The gist of the deal seems to be: Please keep watching our linear channels, but also pay for our streaming services.
The new deal will spread the NFL across multiple channels and streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Peacock, ESPN+, and Tubi. While not all will be required to watch every single NFL contest, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN+, and Peacock will eventually be required to watch certain games.
Starting in 2023, Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive home to every Thursday Night Football game, while NFL Network will only air select Thursday and Saturday Night games. ESPN+ will stream one exclusive national game each year, and will also be stream a wild card game and a divisional playoff game. Peacock has exclusive national streaming rights to six regular-season games, one per year from 2023-28.
Those games will still be shown on local affiliates in the markets of two competing teams.
So a football fan’s week will look something like this:
- Thursday Night Football: Amazon Prime Video exclusive
- Sunday Afternoons: NFC games on FOX/Tubi, AFC games on CBS/Paramount+
- Sunday Night Football: NBC/Peacock
- Monday Night Football: ABC/ESPN/ESPN+
While ESPN has the rights to show Monday Night Football games on ESPN+, they might not do it right away in order to preserve the value of their cable bundle. Same with FOX and Tubi, while the service can show live games on Tubi – they may choose not to.
On Sunday afternoons, NFL RedZone may be a superior way to keep track of all the action, but that’s not available as a standalone product, except on mobile devices, so you’d need to pay a premium via YouTube TV, Sling Blue, or fuboTV to watch on your TV.
There’s also the matter of NFL Sunday Ticket, which remains with DirecTV, but one report suggests it could be headed to ESPN+ when the current deal ends.
The league’s shift to streaming mirrors changing habits among consumers, mostly millennial/Gen Z viewers, who are eschewing cable in favor of subscription services. While recent streamed NFL games have done well in comparison to other streamed non-Super Bowl events, their numbers still pale in comparison to traditional broadcast viewership figures. Super Bowl LV set records with 5.7 million average streaming viewers per minute.
Currently, cord-cutters have a few live TV streaming services that will give them access to all four broadcast channels that have NFL rights: fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, AT&T TV, and YouTube TV. These services range from $64.99 - $69.99 per month.
Sling TV exists as a more cost-efficient option at $35 per month, but can only offer either FOX and NBC (Blue in select markets) or just ESPN (Orange) — but neither plan offers CBS. You’d have to choose one of the costlier options or supplement your subscriptions with Paramount+ in order to watch live CBS feeds.
The media companies behind these deals are hoping to thread the needle to retain linear viewers while adding to their streaming numbers. With the new deals, the league will continue making all local and national games available on the NFL and Yahoo! Sports App on mobile devices and tablets.
But, if you want to watch on your connected TV device, with so many networks and services and fees, it’s likely most fans will simply let a few games slip through the cracks or head to the local sports bar.