NFL Expands Streaming Even Further With New Deal With Verizon, Which Will Make Mobile Streaming Non-Exclusive

from the stream-dream dept

Long-time readers of Techdirt will know that for as long as I’ve written here, I’ve screamed for professional and college sports leagues to offer better streaming options. It has never made a lick of sense to me that an industry so reliant on eyeballs and advertising revenue would want to limit either by keeping people from watching their games. While we’re not where I’d like to be, much has changed in the intervening years. Streaming from pro sports leagues has advanced considerably, both in terms of quality and availability. And, perhaps more importantly, this march has only gone in the direction of more and better streaming options.

A march that continues into the present, in fact, as the NFL appears to be on the verge of inking a new streaming deal with Verizon that is just as important for what it does not include as what it does. We’ll start with what Verizon gets from the deal, which is an end to the hilarious limit on screen size for the NFL streaming product.

Verizon and the National Football League are in talks to sign another streaming rights deal. According to a Bloomberg report, the wireless provider and the NFL are close to finalizing a new deal that would let Verizon stream games to Internet-connected TVs, tablets, and phones. Verizon’s previous deal only allowed it to stream games to devices with screens that are 7-inches or smaller, so the new deal would open up NFL games to Verizon customers who primarily consume TV content on smart TVs, tablets, and other large devices.

This tells us a number of things. First, it tells us that Verizon is betting relatively small phones aren’t the only devices that NFL fans want to watch NFL games on. With the explosion of Smart TVs and mobile tablets with 4G connections, fans have never been more ready to stream an NFL game from so many places, whether it’s on the go in transit or in front of a computer screen or tablet at home. Likewise, these deal terms tell us that the NFL too sees value in expanding streaming generally (more on that in a minute). No longer attempting to limit this deal specifically to smartphones, the NFL is knocking over the dam keeping streaming at bay. This, in case it wasn’t obvious, should be shiver-inducing for terrestrial and cable TV networks that used to be the dominant players for sports broadcasts.

But what’s not in the Verizon deal is what demonstrates just how big an opportunity the NFL sees in streaming.

According to people familiar with the matter, Verizon would also lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices as part of the deal. That means that while Verizon customers would have more device options for watching football, it may not be the only one to stream NFL games. Other wireless providers or streaming TV providers, such as Sling TV or DirecTV Now, may be able to strike their own deals with the NFL and provide streamed games to their subscribers through their own apps.

That’s a big deal, particularly for a league that has operated with exclusivity deals essentially as a business mantra. Born of the era of network television, the NFL has long maintained these types of close broadcast partnerships, but now that is slipping away when it comes to streaming. And ultimately that’s the only move that makes sense, as eyeballs and advertising revenue will be spread far and wide through the NFL’s own network, making the real estate for ads on its broadcasts all the more valuable.

Streaming keeps expanding in pro sports. It’s a great thing for everyone other than cable TV.

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Companies: nfl, verizon

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Comments on “NFL Expands Streaming Even Further With New Deal With Verizon, Which Will Make Mobile Streaming Non-Exclusive”

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MyNameHere (profile) says:

Cost effective

The only reason you see streaming coming into the mainstream is because it’s cost has finally reached a reasonable level, and can be operated by companies on a complexity level similar to that of broadcast or satellite distribution.

I also think it’s only the first step towards what I call “IP Cable companies”, where the same selection of channels you have now on cable will be available on your preferred device(s), with a similar net cost to what you are paying now (internet plus cable). You will likely have a little better choice and selection, and a little better control over the channels you actually pay for, but the model is up and coming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cost effective

“the same selection of channels you have now on cable will be available on your preferred device(s)”

Oh boy – wooohooo, and if you bundle several website destinations you save save save.

“You will likely have a little better choice and selection”

Better than what? … what I have now? – LOL u so funny

“better control over the channels you actually pay for”

Why are people cutting the cord? Some say it is because a lack of choice while others point out there are many who lack money for food & shelter – but they are supposed to buy “channels” ? —- how far out of touch are the captains of industry?

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cost effective

The reality is that most people want something that is curated in some manner. Youtube is (even if they deny it) not just a video hosting site, but also a curation site. That curation is what makes it special.

We almost always go for curated stuff. Sorting music into genres, age, style, what have you is all about finding you what it is that you like. A radio station is a linear curation. Your website playlist is a curation. It’s what we want and desire.

When you realize that most media websites are mostly trying to emulate the curation model, then you understand why the delivery method may change, but the concept remains more or less the same. This is doubly true when it comes to things that don’t lend themselves to time shifting or binge watching, such as live sports, awards events, live concerts, and so on. In your mind, you would prefer to have one or two sources, rather than having to spend all your life looking around trying to find the things you like. Reliable curated sources are what you pay for. They use to be called channels, now they are streams Is there a real difference?

JoeCool (profile) says:


“Watching” sports on anything less than a 20″ TV is akin to listening to it on the radio. People watching streamed sport on mobile are basically listening for the score, crowd reactions, etc. Not that I’m against streaming sports… if you’re at home, you can stream it to your 50″ TV in high-def, and that’s most certainly worth watching. 🙂 I just don’t think there’s a big market for streamed sports on smartphones. Most people would notice that you can’t even tell one side from the other on a 7″ screen and move on to something else.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s been really stupid. I use YouTube TV for my “broadcast TV”, and I can cast NFL games to my TV, watch them on my computer, etc., but I can’t see the live preview on my phone, because of that “no streaming to mobile devices” thing. Now if we could just get the NHL to break their exclusive deals. Anyone in any area that can get MSG on any cable company, no matter the cost, can’t view any game that MSG broadcasts on anything OTHER than MSG. I stream the games for free anyway, because they prevent me from viewing them from any legitimate channel.

Noel says:

Bad deal

How does is this good. If you don’t have Verizon your screwed. The NFL KEEPS SHOOTINGVITSELF IN YHE FOOT. The owners give Goodell more money for being an idiot. The problem is the owners are all 75 years old and have no clue how to use a computer so Goodell tells them to do this while pockets another 20 mil on the side from Verizon. The league needs a commissioner that it younger than 40 and for on the tech industry

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