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.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Kathy says:

    The NFL Exists to Make Money

    And that’s the whole problem with the world these days.

    Boeing exists to make money. This has resulted in a poorly thought out overdesign of an old regional jet into a medium haul mainline plane. One with two deadly crashes and a myriad problems to its name.

    Beyond the deaths caused by Boeing, the MAX project hasn’t even made money.

    When Boeing existed to make airplanes, they also made money. They managed to revolutionize air travel twice in a generation, too (arguably three times).

    Seriously, every major Boeing project is a mess of delays, cost overruns, and unsafe practices. the 787 (delays, battery fires, problematic engines to this day), the 777X (delays beyond reasonable expectations), the VC25B (aka Air Force One), the 767-based tanker and transport plane, the Starliner capsule, the MAX.

  2. Bill Jempty says:

    The television market I’m in is West Palm Beach, so the local NFL affiliate won’t have the Dolphins-Chiefs game on tonight. And we’re just 70 miles from where Miami plays their games.

    I do have Peacock, so watching the game tonight isn’t a problem. It will however be one one for lots of local fans and they’re steamed that the game isn’t on locally.

  3. @Bill Jempty: I guess you aren’t local enough. It is supposed to be on NBC6 in Miami.

  4. DK says:


    And that’s the whole problem with the world these days.

    Boeing exists to make money. This has resulted in a poorly thought out overdesign of an old regional jet into a medium haul mainline plane.

    What if companies realized they’d make even more money if they did things right and treated customers and employees well instead of cutting corners?

    What if Americans realized we’d all end up wealthier by creating a healthier, smarter, less unstable, less criminal, more innovative population — with investment in public healthcare, housing, education, and transportation?

    Money wouldn’t be so problematic if we were smart enough to realize we’d make more of it on the back end with less greed and selfishness on the front end.

  5. Bill Jempty says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I guess you aren’t local enough. It is supposed to be on NBC6 in Miami.

    Haven’t watched Miami Channel 6 since my family moved* to Boca Raton in 1980. In those days, Channel 6 was an independent Channel 7 was the NBC affiliate. We did Channel 7 when living in Lantana in the early 90’s. WSVN I remember for the garbage news, Rick Sanchez, and daytime programming that almost entirely consisted of 1970’s cop or detective shows.

    *- I enlisted in the Navy in 1979 and didn’t return to South Florida till 1989 but I did frequently visit my parents especially when I was stationed in Orlando 1980-1983.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    They have to be careful with their strategy. Here in B’More the Orioles are only available as a specialty service, MASN, available as an add on cable service or via dedicated subscription streaming service. In other words, there are no free games available. As a strategy they are maximizing revenue from their existing fans who will make the effort to subscribe, but are going to lose future revenue as they fail to create the next generation of fans.

  7. Bill Jempty says:


    And that’s the whole problem with the world these days.


    My book business exists so to make money and support me and wife. So I plead guilty. Since we have no living children, my literary estate will pass to my in-laws.

    I do enjoy writing and I’m able to work from home.

  8. Matt says:

    @DK: It’s not about making money really. The real goal is to make stock holders happy in the next quarter so the C suite suit’s stock options make THEM a lot of money. One of many terrible results from McKinsey & Company’s consulting bullshitery. Tying executive compensation to stock prices made it so that actual profits and traditional business metrics no longer matter. All that matters is how the stock holders will react. Business has a history of shortsightedness in this country but stuff like that has made it vastly worse in the last few decades. Investing in long term profits to the detriment of short term profits would be a quick way to get ousted from leadership…

    So thinking long term tends to get crushed…

  9. DrDaveT says:

    One can only hope that revenues from the game, and the anticipated flurry of longer-term subscriptions it was supposed to generate, will be far below projections. At which point, the smart money guys will correctly deduce that this was a stupid idea, or its time has not yet come, and stop doing that. At least for a while.

    I really enjoyed free Premier League matches on Peacock, for years. Was that enough to get me to sign up when they decided to make all of those matches subscription-only? No, it was not.

  10. Tony W says:

    I realize that Sunday Ticket is a HUGE money maker, and that YouTube TV would sue the daylights out of the NFL if they changed it, but the thing I can’t figure out is why the NFL didn’t take advantage of the end of the Sunday Ticket contract with Direct TV to move more games to midweek.

    The huge cluster of games on Sunday means that even with Sunday Ticket there are games I can’t watch – games that I would watch if they were aired on, say, Tuesday or Wednesday.

    This would also allow the NFL to expand the season – perhaps even double it – by making teams play every 10-14 days on average instead of weekly. That would reduce injuries, and would expand the fan base for alternate teams.

    My guess is that this is the longer-term plan for the NFL.

  11. Mattie Ice says:

    The Orioles along with MLB is quickly on its way out. Not so long ago baseball owners thought they were sitting on the golden egg. Oh how times have changed, the golden egg, well it’s pretty much an after thought today, and simply an embarrassing under performing business model turd. If you recall, some time ago, baseball owners were doing the same thing to the cable tv market, only to lose their fan base and national tv as well. Today, nobody wants to watch greedy American Baseball! Fans even pass up free tickets! No one wants to take their family to watch a 3 hour baseball game in a stadium that charges $20 for a drink and hotdog and $15 for a pretzel, not to mention $35 to park the mini van. Wake up Roger! Btw, NFL needs to straighten out and clean up the officiating before it becomes another NBA problem and fiasco, sure way to quickly discredit a franchise and sport.


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