This Just In: The NFL Exists to Make Money
Also: the media landscape is currently evolving.
As I am sure any even casual observer of the NFL is aware, tonight’s Wild Card matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins will be available exclusively* on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. They had previously streamed an NFL game on December 22nd (a pretty entertaining Bills-Chargers matchup).**
There have been several recurring observations I keep encountering on this topic. The first, it’s a money grab! (or some version thereof). To which my brain invariably goes: no kidding. The notion that the NFL specifically, not to mention entertainment companies in general, exist for any other reason than to make money is just silly. Of course, they are going to try and find new ways to make more money.
A second one is, what is Peacock, anyway? This is not an unfair question, insofar as it is a second-tier, at best, streamer. It isn’t Netflix, Hulu, or YouTubeTV. So, I ask, what better way to make your product a household name than to attach yourself to the biggest single entertainment product in the United States? Even the annoyed people are talking about Peacock. And people will know what it is now.
I am betting that the marketing people at NBC-Universal knew exactly how with would be received.
Even headlines like this one from Slate, The TV Streaming Mess Finally Came for the NFL, have got to have those selfsame marketing people asking, “Did they spell Peacock correctly, and did that article send readers to Google to figure out how to watch the game?” Likewise the subtitle to this piece from Awful Announcing, “Despite outrage about the NFL airing a playoff game on Peacock, the league and NBC seem confident with the strategy.” Behold the outrage that has led to tons of free publicity. Heck, when was the last time I wrote about the NFL (let alone Peacock?)?
There were similar cries of “money grabs” when the NFL started showing one game a week on cable outlets back in the mid-to-late 1980s. I have heard my whole life that the NFL would soon put all of their games on pay-per-view, but of course, that would be a foolish model, since the big money is mass-based ad revenue. Indeed, the silliest thing I hear/read regularly is that the Super Bowl will soon be pay-per-view. There is no way the NFL will mess with that gold mine.
This is really about the ability of the NFL to sell off a small part of their broader stock of games to exclusive providers (that started with MNF on ABC back in 1970 and manifests these days with Thursday night football on Amazon Prime). They will not shift away from broadcast TV so long as they can get bigger audiences there, given the importance of mass advertisement revenue. After all, in the days of streaming scripted TV and DVRs the best way to get an audience to sit through commercials is live sports (it is the only time I watch commercials–that and breaking news).
tl;dr version: the NFL is out to make money and streaming is the future and we are in the sorting out stages of that future.
I will just conclude with this CBS News headline: Peacock subscriptions are 50% off ahead of the Peacock-exclusive Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs game.
*It will be broadcast on convention TV in those media markets, and will be available in various ways outside the US, so “exclusively” is actually not entirely accurate.
**Yes, the NFL games led me to subscribe to Peacock. Knowing I would want to watch the games, I took their Black Friday deal, which I think was $2/month for the whole year. Plus I want to watch the Monk movie. I would note that I had previously, albeit relatively briefly, been a Peacock subscriber. I highly recommend Poker Face.