The days of streaming your local NFL team’s games for free on your mobile phone are over.
The NFL is unveiling a new subscription streaming service that will offer consumers local and national prime-time game telecasts that were previously streamed at no cost to consumers on Yahoo Sports and the NFL mobile app.
The service, called NFL+, launches today for a monthly fee of $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year. Users can access the service on a mobile phone or tablet, but not on an internet-connected TV.
The new service effectively puts the NFL into the direct-to-consumer streaming video business, which could eventually be the primary means of presenting the games as the TV landscape evolves.
The media rights for the NFL are committed for 11 years starting next season, with the bulk of the games on traditional broadcast and cable TV networks CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and ESPN. However with younger consumers migrating to streaming platforms, the league clearly wants its options open for the future.
NFL+ subscribers will get all preseason games, the regional telecast offered in their markets on CBS and Fox, and prime-time games shown on NBC, ESPN and Amazon’s Prime Video. Post-playoffs and the Super Bowl will also be included.
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NFL+ will also offer live play-by-play audio of all games, including those outside of a fan’s local market.
A premium version of NFL+ will be offered for $9.99 a month or $79.99 annually, adding such features such as ad-free game replays and coaches’ film. The new service replaces the NFL’s Game Pass, which offered a library of previous games, play-by-play audio of live games and other league-related programming for $99 a year.
Fans can still stream live games on the platforms offered by the NFL’s broadcast partners, all of which require subscriptions either to the streaming platform itself or a pay TV service.
While some consumers might be irritated at having to pay to stream live games after getting them for free for more than a decade, league executives believe the additional content offered on NFL+ will make it enticing for hardcore fans.
“It’s the right time now for us to package this all together in a product that is more significant at a price that we think is attractive,” said David Jurenka, senior vice president of NFL Media and general manager of the NFL’s Los Angeles office.
Verizon was the first company to offer NFL games on mobile devices, starting in 2010. The company gave up its exclusive rights in 2017 and presented NFL content across its digital properties including Yahoo. Verizon decided to end its streaming partnership last year as part of its strategy to exit the video content business by spinning off Yahoo and AOL.
NFL+ does not offer out-of-market games to fans outside of the national prime-time contests. Those games are available on the NFL Sunday Ticket package currently available through DirecTV, which gives fans the choice of watching every regional telecast.
DirecTV’s deal to carry Sunday Ticket ends at the end of the 2022-23 season. The rights are now being shopped by the NFL, with tech giants Amazon and Apple reported to be the leading contenders. Amazon has the exclusive rights to NFL’s Thursday Night Football package starting this upcoming season.
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Stephen Battaglio writes about television and the media business for the Los Angeles Times out of New York. His coverage of the television industry has appeared in TV Guide, the New York Daily News, the New York Times, Fortune, the Hollywood Reporter, Inside.com and Adweek. He is also the author of three books about television, including a biography of pioneer talk show host and producer David Susskind.
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