Netflix strikes three-season NFL deal, will air two games this year

05/15/2024 21:44
Netflix strikes three-season NFL deal, will air two games this year

Netflix has won the streaming rights to two NFL games set to air Christmas Day.

Netflix (NFLX) has won the streaming rights to two National Football League (NFL) games set to air Christmas Day, the company announced in a post on X Wednesday morning.

It's a surprising development given the streaming giant has previously said it wanted to avoid investing in live sports content.

The doubleheader matchups will be announced once the NFL releases its full schedule Wednesday evening. The company will reportedly pay less than $150 million per game, according to Bloomberg.

In addition to this year's games, the company also revealed it will be streaming at least one holiday game per year as part of a three-season deal.

"Last year, we decided to take a big bet on live — tapping into massive fandoms across comedy, reality TV, sports, and more," Netflix Chief Content Officer, Bela Bajaria said in a news release. "There are no live annual events, sports or otherwise, that compare with the audiences NFL football attracts. We’re so excited that the NFL’s Christmas Day games will be only on Netflix."

Netflix had previously maintained that it wants to focus on "sports entertainment" instead of paying for the rights to live sports, which can be expensive for media companies. In the past, the company has released docuseries and sports-adjacent content like "The Quarterback," "Formula 1: Drive to Survive," "Full Swing," and "Break Point," in addition to live sporting events like the "Netflix Cup" celebrity golf tournament, which aired late last year.

One recently announced partnership seemed to deviate from that status quo. In January, Netflix announced a 10-year deal with TKO Group Holding's WWE (TKO) that will bring WWE’s flagship program Raw, a live wrestling production, to the streaming service beginning in 2025.

But at the time, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the inclusion of the program did not signal a change in its overall sports strategy, describing the deal as "unique" compared to the global sports rights of professional leagues like the NBA or UFC.

Wall Street analysts and industry watchers have long predicted Netflix will eventually be forced to go all-in on sports, describing live sports as the last frontier of streaming amid a deteriorating cable bundle.

"Eventually we expect Netflix to move into live sports, particularly as it scales in [free cash flow] generation and has the ability to invest in major sports rights around the world," Morgan Stanley said in a report published last June. "In addition, as its advertising capabilities scale, we think live sports will fit well into its content offering."

US Kansas City Chief's american football players Patrick Mahomes (R) and Travis Kielce (L) arrive for the premiere of Netflix's docuseries

US Kansas City Chief's american football players Patrick Mahomes (R) and Travis Kielce (L) arrive for the premiere of Netflix's docuseries "Quarterback" at the Tudum Theatre in Los Angeles, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Chris Delmas / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images) (CHRIS DELMAS via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the NFL has recently begun to include more streamers on the list of partners with exclusive rights to its games.

Including Netflix's deal, the league now has exclusive partnerships with four streaming platforms for the upcoming 2024/25 season: NBCUniversal's Peacock (CMCSA), which will air the Green Bay Packers' week one matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles in Brazil; Disney's ESPN+ (DIS), which will carry one international game; and Amazon Prime Video (AMZN), which will host one wild card playoff game this year, in addition to its Thursday Night Football package.

As a reminder, Google's YouTube TV (GOOG, GOOGL) has the exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, which makes out-of-market games available to fans nationwide. Sunday Ticket can be purchased as an add-on package on YouTube TV or as a standalone à la carte service on YouTube Primetime Channels.

Sports rights have become increasingly important for media giants as more consumers cut the cord. The content is viewed as "sticky," meaning loyal audiences are more willing to fork over their monthly cable or streaming service fee to access sports over other types of content.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on X @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at [email protected].

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