NFL Christmas games sell to new streaming service, and you need another subscription to watch

NFL Christmas games sell to new streaming service, and you need another subscription to watch

The NFL has already announced it will have games on Christmas Day in 2024 despite the holiday falling on a Wednesday. In advance of the NFL’s schedule release, set for mid-May, word has now leaked that those games will be on a streaming platform new to the NFL. Netflix is the reported home for NFL games on Christmas, per John Ourand of Puck Sports.

Netflix will be the third streaming-exclusive destination for NFL fans following Amazon Prime Video and Peacock from NBCUniversal.

Adding paywalls is nothing new for the NFL. Since 1987, ESPN has carried NFL on cable television. Those games weren’t previously available to fans of other teams, though, so it was a value add, since the home markets still were able to see the games for free on broadcast television simulcasts. When the NFL added Thursday night games in 2006, they were also on cable television, this time on NFL Network.

NFL games have been available on streaming as an additional viewing option for several years, but it wasn’t until 2022 that the league began broadcasting games exclusively on a streaming platform. Amazon purchased the rights to Thursday Night Football broadcasts, and you’ve needed a Prime Video subscription in order to watch those games (unless you’re in the team’s home market).

In 2023, the NFL again partnered with Amazon to create a brand new streaming package for one Black Friday game per year. They also expanded their streaming services with the addition of a Peacock-exclusive regular season game. Now instead of one streaming service plus some way to watch ESPN, you needed two streamers.

The angst of the media and fans didn’t rise up at any of those changes. These games weren’t previously available to viewers, so there wasn’t an uproar. Games were more available, not less. Before games came to cable and streaming, you wouldn’t have been able to watch them on Sunday over the air. Now you had the chance.

That all changed in 2023, when the NFL moved one of the Wild Card games exclusively onto Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service and said the moves was good for fans. Now a game that had previously been available for free to everyone nationwide was going behind a paywall. And it worked. Really really well.

Nearly 3 million new subscribers signed up for Peacock to watch the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Miami Dolphins in January 2024. Not only did they stay for the free trial, they converted and actually paid money. Reports say 71% of the new subscribers stayed on the streaming platform after the playoff game and with NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics coming to Peacock in 2024, it was a monumental win for the streaming service.

Enter Netflix. They have been dipping their toe into live programming since a disastrous April 2023 broadcast of the Love Is Blind reunion special was 90 minutes late after technical difficulties. They have presumably worked out the kinks with smaller live shows since. In January, Netflix is going to be the new home to one of cable TV’s top live sporting events when WWE’s Monday Night Raw makes the move to streaming. It seems that before we get to January, Netflix is going to have even bigger sports events streaming on their service.

This feels more similar to losing the Wild Card game than it does the previous moves to streaming and cable. Since the NFL began regularly broadcasting on Christmas Day in 2020, only one game has been exclusively on cable TV (2021’s NFL Network game), with the other eight being nationally broadcast for free. The NFL and Netflix are moving a game that was previously available for free and moving it behind a paywall.

And that stinks. It stinks for folks who are pinching pennies and cutting streaming services out of their budgets. It stinks for NFL fans who want to watch potentially some of the biggest games on the stretch run to the postseason. It stinks for the players, because the NFL is having four teams play on short rest two weeks in a row in order to place games on Wednesday.

Over that stink, though, is the smell of money. The NFL is always looking for new revenue streams and Netflix couldn’t be happier to provide it.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the NFL won’t make you pay to watch a Super Bowl in his lifetime, but he didn’t rule out more playoff games going to streaming services as they try to make these new partners happy.

With the Christmas games out of the way, perhaps the next broadcast package the NFL will sell is the Sunday morning European game slate as part of the league’s international series. While several of those games have been exclusive to NFL Network, the league can make more money grouping those games together with a new partner. With Disney+ entering the live sports space this year alongside Netflix, and the mounting streaming wars driving competition around the space, it’s just a matter of time until we see the next deal.

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