Thursday, June 20, 2024

NFL fans in US must pay $1,600 a year to watch every game after Netflix addition

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After the success of shows like Drive to Survive, Full Swing, and The Roast of Tom Brady, Netflix is continuing its move into live sports broadcasting. The company announced on Wednesday that it will broadcast two NFL games on Christmas Day during the 2024 season, with at least one other Christmas game in 2025 and 2026.

Netflix has hosted one-off events in tennis, golf and boxing but this is the first live partnership between the streaming company and one of the major US sports leagues.

Netflix content chief Bela Bajaria said on Wednesday “there are no live annual events, sports or otherwise, that compare with the audiences NFL football attracts.”

The company did not disclose financial terms of the deal. Bloomberg News, which first reported on the negotiations, said Netflix will pay less than $150m a game for exclusive international rights. The streaming service has turned to live events and sports in recent months to retain users and build out its advertising business as growth saturates in the US market.

Netflix has made a gradual move into NFL coverage. In 2023, it released the popular Quarterback series featuring Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota. This summer, they will premiere a Receiver series, chronicling the paths of stars such as Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson during the 2023 season.

The NFL has continued to pivot towards streaming platforms and away from its traditional broadcast partners. But as the league chases new distribution outlets, the cost for fans at home continues to balloon. Adding Netflix will take the total number of services needed to watch all of the league’s games to seven. Viewers will need a cable or YouTube TV subscription as well as Sunday Ticket, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, ESPN+, NFL+ and Netflix.

The projected cost to watch all NFL games in 2024 for cord-cutters in $1610.

Cord-cutting fans will need to subscribe to all seven services to get access to the entire 2024 NFL slate, with a price tag about $1,600 based on last season’s pricing and Netflix’s current cheapest offering. That figure does not include the cost of an internet service necessary to run a streaming-only option. According to OpenVault, the average price Americans paid for internet service in 2022 was $64 a month. That will push the total outlay over $2,000 to cover the NFL’s regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl.

It will be even more expensive for cable subscribers, who will still need to subscribe to NFL+, ESPN+, Peacock, Amazon Prime and Netflix on top of their cable subscription to be able to watch the league in its entirety. Four streaming platforms will have exclusive games in 2024.

Consumers can find workarounds. Free trials and short-term sign-ups can be used to buffer some of the cost. For example, customers could sign up for Netflix for the month of December to watch the Christmas games and then cancel their subscription in January. However, the distribution of games on streaming platforms is designed to retain consumers over multiple months. Unlike Netflix’s Christmas Day deal, Thursday Night Football runs throughout the season on Amazon Prime. Peacock will broadcast three exclusive games in 2024: the league’s first regular season game in São Paulo in September, a regular season matchup in December and a playoff game in January.

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The bet for streamers is that customers remain committed to the service once they’ve subscribed for a one-off event – or forget to cancel. The NFL broadcast its first streaming-exclusive game on Peacock during the playoffs last season. The 13 January game between the Chiefs and Dolphins added three million new signups to the service. NBC said the game was the “most streamed event in US history”, with 21 million viewers tuning in. The option to sign up for a free-trial was blacked out for the game, with the service retaining most of the new subscribers. According to IndieWire, 71% of users who paid to sign up remained subscribers through the end of February 2024.

The NFL will release its full regular schedule, including the Christmas Day games, on Wednesday.

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