Netflix needs NFL Christmas games broadcast partner

Netflix needs NFL Christmas games broadcast partner

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers prepares to take a snap in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs0 during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Michael Reaves | Getty Images

Netflix trying to prepare for some football.

The streaming giant reached out to broadcasters this week in hopes of finding a partner to produce the NFL games that will air on Christmas Day this year, people familiar with the matter say. Netflix will show two games on Christmas Day this year, followed by at least one matchup in 2025 and 2026, the company announced last month.

This is Netflix’s first real foray into traditional live sports, driven by the company’s ambitions to expand its advertising tier. The company signed a deal with WWE to host “Raw’s” live events earlier this year, but Netflix described that deal as “sports entertainment.” Unlike WWE, Netflix’s deal for NFL Christmas games doesn’t include a full production team. This led to the streamer seeking help.

Netflix has reached out to the networks currently broadcasting NFL games, including Disney’s ESPN, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Paramount Globals CBS Sports, said people familiar, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Disney will not produce the games because it already has college football commitments on the same day, two of the people said.

In-depth discussions with the other broadcasters have not yet begun, but Netflix’s options may be somewhat limited.

Fox and CBS Sports already produce different games in different regions each week, which could make picking up additional games a burden for Netflix, some people said.

There is also competition to consider.

Amazon has signed a deal with NBCUniversal to produce its NFL games ahead of the first season of “Thursday Night Football” in 2022, but there may be more resistance among current NFL partners to helping Netflix, according to people familiar with the matter . That’s because Netflix could step in as a future long-term media rights partner for NFL games, rather than a legacy media company like Paramount. Fox or NBC.

The NFL has an opt-out clause in its current media contracts that allows it to select new media partners after the 2029-30 season.

Representatives for Netflix, the NFL, NBCUniversal, CBS, ESPN and Fox declined to comment.

Welcome to Netflix

Netflix announced its entry into the NFL in mid-May ahead of its Upfront presentation, as the company sought to attract advertisers to its emerging ad-supported platform. Netflix announced last month that it had reached 40 million active users worldwide for its advertising tier, which costs $6.99 per month in the US and launched in November 2022.

In May, co-CEO Ted Sarandos told CNBC that the NFL was the right choice for Netflix because it fits the streamer’s event strategy and effectively allows Netflix to control the day. Netflix will pay the NFL about $75 million per game, CNBC previously reported.

For the NFL, Netflix represents an opportunity to reach a global, younger audience. There’s also the potential to lay the groundwork for Netflix to become a bidder for a larger gaming package in the future.

The NFL signed long-term deals with Disney, Paramount, NBCUniversal, Fox and Amazon for its five major game packages in 2021.

While there is some fear among current media partners about producing games for a potential rival, pressure from the league – and a big paycheck from Netflix – could convince broadcasters to strike a deal, people familiar with the matter say.

“There aren’t that many players in this space that have the ability to do this at a level that you would trust when starting as a new partner with a league as important as the NBA or the NFL,” said Shirin Malkani, co-chair of law firm Perkins Coie’s sports industry group, added that the production side “can be a big hole for streaming partners.”

Netflix and the league want to mirror the partnership Amazon’s Prime Video has with Comcast’s NBC Sports for “Thursday Night Football” games.

While NBC Sports’ Fred Gaudelli produced the 2022 season of “Thursday Night Football,” Amazon named Mark Teitelman, one of its own employees, as executive game producer in 2023.

Amazon produces all of the pregame, halftime and postgame coverage, but NBC Sports handles the extensive production work that goes into an NFL game and employs the vast majority of those employees.

Netflix is ​​interested in finding a similar partner, people familiar with its plans say.

If a deal cannot be reached with one of the incumbent operators, Netflix could find other options with third-party producers. Endeavor Group Holdings’ IMG is the production partner for Major League Soccer, which is offered through Apple.

“It’s not easy to do an NFL game at a level that people are used to. This is very high level and well produced,” said Jonathan Miller, managing director of Integrated Media, which specializes in digital media investments. “But there are a number of options that allow you to do all of this without it [Netflix] to have a fully staffed athletic department.”

Switch to streaming

Amazon Prime Video became the first streamer to get exclusive rights to NFL games as the league pushes to expand its media partners and offer more streaming offerings to grow its audience.

Amazon entered into its deal to broadcast “Thursday Night Football” in 2021 in conjunction with the rest of the NFL’s media rights deals – an 11-year media rights agreement worth over $100 billion with an opt-out clause after seven years .

With the NBA’s recent media rights negotiations receiving top dollar from various media companies, many in the industry expect the NFL to exercise the clause and look for new partners.

Since the NFL signed its contract, streaming services for Comcast, ESPN and Paramount have begun streaming games simultaneously and, in some cases, hosting games exclusively. alphabet YouTube TV is also the new home of the Sunday Ticket gaming package.

Sports, particularly the NFL, have been the glue that held the traditional TV package together — and have also proven to boost streaming. NBCUniversal said in April its exclusive NFL Wild Card game on Peacock helped attract and then retain more customers than expected.

The league has been vocal about adding more streaming partners to grow its audience.

That was the thinking behind the deal with Netflix to stream these Christmas games.

As negotiations for the “Sunday Ticket” rights were underway, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told CNBC that the long-running, DirecTV-only package would move to streaming.

“I think this is the best thing for consumers at this point,” Goodell said at the time.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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2024-06-13 19:57:54