When the NFL reached a deal with Amazon to move Thursday Night Football to the streaming service exclusively, it represented the league’s first time moving a game off of the traditional TV airwaves. That will apparently only be the beginning of the NFL’s embrace of streaming services, as next year there will be a playoff game you won’t be able to find on your TV guide — despite it being produced by a traditional TV network.
As NBC has done with some of its other sports properties, they have reached an agreement with the NFL to make next year’s Saturday night Wild Card Round game a Peacock streaming exclusive.
.@peacock will become the home of the FIRST-EVER exclusive live-streamed NFL Playoff Game! pic.twitter.com/iUwwhsidWW
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) May 15, 2023
That means fans of two teams will have to have NBC’s streaming service to watch their teams play in a playoff game — as well as the millions of others that tune in for each NFL playoff game regardless of the team. What’s wild is that NBCUniversal is reportedly paying the league $110 million to broadcast the game on Peacock, per ProFootballTalk (which is NBC’s NFL site, so seems safe to say it’s a solid source). That’s a rather outrageous amount of money for one game, but falls in line with Amazon’s rate for Thursday night games. The league is clearly willing to lose a bit of viewership on some of the games for a massive payout, but it will be fascinating to see what the drop-off ends up being in viewership figures from the rest of the Wild Card games.
Part of what has made the NFL a juggernaut is their ownership of broadcast airwaves where they reach the most people — it took ESPN years to get in on the playoff package just to get a game on cable. Moving a game to being a streaming service exclusive is a big deal, but I also don’t know if it’s a harbinger of things to come. NBC paying that much on top of the billions they pay for the Sunday Night package just to take a game off of the normal airwaves in an effort to drive subscriptions is bold. I’m sure other networks will look to see what the actual boost Peacock gets from this is in terms of subs (and how long those subs last), but it will need to be an awful lot to cover the extra cost — particularly because ad revenue for the game figures to be lower as well.
This is a grand media experiment, and the frustrating thing is that the fans are the ones impacted by it. The league makes a ton of money and NBC gets to brag about having the first playoff game on streaming (even if they lose money on it), but there will be plenty of fans who now have to make the decision between watching a playoff game or not adding to their list streaming service bills (particularly if they’ve already burned through a trial sub previously).