The NFL has lifted the curtain on its long-awaited streaming service, which will allow fans to watch live games on a smartphone or tablet.
NFL+ costs $4.99 a month, or $39.99 a year, and comes with access to pre-season games and archived football footage, the league announced Monday. A higher-tier subscription, NFL+ Premium, goes for $9.99 or $79.99, and includes ad-free
game replays and coaches' film — a camera angle that let's a viewer see the game from all 22 players on the field.
The new service is different from the NFL Network or NFL Sunday Ticket, which both offer viewer access to live games but must be paid for through a cable service provider. With NFL+ launching, NFL Game Pass will no longer be offered in the U.S., the league said.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that NFL+ is about deepening the league's relationship with fans of all ages by giving them "a tremendous amount of NFL content." Sports business experts said the service is a play at grabbing the younger football audience and creating a new revenue stream for the 102-year-old league.
The launch of NFL+ marks another instance of sports games migrating away from where fans traditionally have enjoyed the action — network television. For example, the NFL has broadcast contracts with CBS, ESPN, FOX and NBC that end in 2033 (CBS, which is owned by Paramount Global, operates CBSNews.com). The NBA has contracts with ESPN and Turner Sports that end in 2025.
The NBA offers League Pass, a streaming service that allows fans to view games from a mobile device or TV, but the league is still looking to create a different stream in partnership with Microsoft. Major League Baseball is also rumored to be developing a streaming service, the New York Post reported last October.
What the NFL launched Monday is "not a surprise considering what we're seeing across the landscape of sports," said Patrick Rishe, a sports business professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
The rise of league-owned streaming services will not take eyeballs away from televised sports games, Rishe and other experts said. Instead, it's a win for sports fans who now have an additional format for viewing the game if they happen to be away from a TV screen, they said.
"The NFL has made a smart, shrewd and relevant business move because the data clearly shows that Gen X and Alpha Gens — these younger generations — are streaming more and more content and have a greater propensity to subscription services," Rishe told CBS MoneyWatch.
Changing landscape benefits leagues
The NFL's streaming service also lands at a time when tech companies are starting to gobble up more broadcast rights for sports games.
Apple for example has a 10-year contract to stream Major League Soccer games, which begins next year. The tech giant began streaming MLB games earlier this year on Apple TV. Rishe noted that, starting this year, Amazon Prime will stream some NFL games for the first time in league history.
Apple and Amazon will continue to compete for live sports contracts in coming years and that's putting big pressure on TV networks, some of which don't have the same deep rivers of revenue as tech companies, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Steve Gera, a sports business professor at San Diego State University, noted that the NFL had a five-year streaming contract with Verizon-Yahoo that expired this year. The expiration was likely the impetus behind NFL+, Gera told CBS MoneyWatch.
Having this streaming service will likely pay dividends for the NFL years down the road, Gera said, because it will allow the league to pitch TV networks a new — perhaps more lucrative — broadcast contract that ties in the viewers from NFL+.
"They'll have great metrics and data on that so they'll be able to tell a great story on what they've been able to do with this service and offer it as a package deal," Gera said. "It sets them up to have really nice leverage."
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