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NFL enters the streaming wars with mobile-only service

Tim Baysinger
May 26, 2022
Illustration of two remote controls as swords dueling it out.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NFL will launch a mobile-only streaming service this summer that will include in-market access to local games that air on broadcast TV, a source confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: The NFL wants to find a single buyer for a stake in its media business as well as its out-of-market Sunday Ticket package. The league is hoping that adding a new streaming service makes this even more attractive to a potential buyer.

  • Amazon and Apple have long been seen as the leaders for Sunday Ticket, which is heading into its last season on DirecTV.
  • NFL is eschewing mobile deals with Verizon and Yahoo in favor of subscription money (at a time when Wall Street is wary of streaming).
  • Verizon had exclusive mobile rights from 2010 until 2017, when it relinquished that exclusivity. Its most recent deal with the NFL expired after February's Super Bowl.

Yes, but: Verizon is not done with the NFL. The phone carrier signed a 10-year marketing and tech agreement to be the official technology partner of the NFL.

Details: According to Sports Business Journal, which first reported the news, the service will tentatively be called NFL Plus and cost around $5 per month.

  • Along with games, NFL Plus could include radio, podcasts and other team-created content.

Be smart: While the new mobile service will include more than the games, it also means that consumers will have to now pay for those mobile rights. That could be a harder sell since they were previously provided via their phone carrier for no extra charge.

The big picture: The NFL's launch of an in-market streaming service comes as the regional sports network business is in heavy decline amid ongoing cord-cutting.

  • Sinclair, which owns Bally Sports RSNs, is launching a streaming service, Bally Sports+, that will include many of its local sports team rights. That will cost $19.99 per month.
  • For the NFL, owning its own streaming service will also give the league much more data on its fans' viewing habits.
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