Saturday, May 25, 2024

Netflix Gets NFL Christmas Day Games In Major Sports Expansion

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Netflix will stream live NFL games, beginning this season.

In a deal that changes the sports media landscape, the streaming giant has inked a deal to stream the NFL’s two new Christmas Day games, which it decided to carve out from its schedule earlier this year. Netflix will stream the games this year, instantly giving it access to the biggest live sports rights in the U.S.

And the streaming giant will also get games in 2025 and 2026, with “at least one game” on tap for each year. The NFL and Netflix say the deal runs for three years.

“Last year, we decided to take a big bet on live — tapping into massive fandoms across comedy, reality TV, sports and more,” said Bela Bajaria, Netflix chief content officer, in a statement. “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.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to be the first professional sports league to partner with Netflix to bring live games to fans around the world,” added Hans Schroeder, NFL executive VP of media distribution. “The NFL on Christmas has become a tradition and to partner with Netflix, a service whose biggest day of the year is typically this holiday, is the perfect combination to grow this event globally for NFL fans.”

Netflix has been somewhat coy when it comes to sports. It has long played in the sports docuseries game (including with the NFL, via its series Quarterback and the upcoming Receiver) and it has engaged in one-off events like its golf tournament The Netflix Cup, and tennis exhibition The Netflix Slam, as well as the upcoming boxing match between Jake Paul and Mike Tyson.

And of course the company cut a 10-year, $5 billion deal for WWE Raw.

To that end, executives have softened their comments on sports in recent months.

Netflix is “not anti-sports but pro-profitable growth. And I think that’s the core of everything we do in all kinds of programming, including sports. So, our North Star is to grow engagement, revenue, and profit,” co-CEO Ted Sarandos told analysts on the company’s last earnings call April 18. “And if we find opportunities, we could drive all three of those, we will do that across an increasingly wide variety of quality entertainment.”

The NFL, meanwhile, has made no secret of its desire to be as widely available as possible. That has meant leaning on broadcast TV, but also partnering with the largest streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video — which has Thursday Night Football — and YouTube — which has Sunday Ticket.

In keeping with its historic practices, the NFL says that the Christmas Day games will also be available on broadcast TV in the local team markets, and on the NFL+ mobile app.

Netflix, as the largest global subscription streaming service, would be a feather in the league’s cap, and could make the next round of rights particularly interesting.

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