The NFL wants a piece of the streaming action.
In a launch that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is calling “an important day in the history of the National Football League,” the TV juggernaut is launching a streaming offering called NFL+ on Monday, hoping to entice fans to subscribe with features built around smartphones and tablets. The first game available on NFL+ will be the Hall of Fame Game on August 4, featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders.
NFL+ will have two subscription tiers, a base tier for $4.99 per month ($39.99 per year) that includes live local and national primetime games on mobile devices, and out-of-market pre-season games on all devices. The service will also include home, away and national game live audio for every game of the season, and some NFL library programming.
The NFL+ Premium tier will cost $9.99 per month ($79.99 per year) and will add on full-game replays and condensed-game replays (going back to 2009), and coaches film, all ad-free.
It will live within NFL.com and the NFL app, serving as an add-on service for regular consumers of NFL content.
“I think the offering we have put together is robust, and at a really attractive price,” David Jurenka, senior vp of NFL Media, and GM of the league’s Los Angeles-based businesses, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The streaming and direct-to-consumer space has just exploded over the last 3 to 5 years, and certainly over the last decade, and we feel like expanding our direct-to-consumer product is a smart strategy for us, and is also beneficial to our fans.”
The service gives the league more direct economic exposure to its fanbase, with NFL programming by far the most popular programming on linear TV, and serving as a sale point for other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Paramount+.
“The passionate and dedicated football fans are the lifeblood of the NFL, and being able to reach and interact with them across multiple platforms is incredibly important to us,” Goodell added in his statement. “We look forward to continuing to grow NFL+ and deepening our relationship with fans across all ages and demographics, providing them access to a tremendous amount of NFL content, including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games.”
NFL+ is being built around the live mobile game rights previously held by Verizon and Yahoo, which included local and some national games, depending on where the user was geolocated. Verizon’s rights ended after this year’s Super Bowl.
But the current product is being viewed as a starting point, Jurenka says, with the league hoping to evolve the service over time.
“I think we have a lot of flexibility here, because this is the content offering that we are taking to market for year one,” Jurenka says. “But as you have seen with other direct to consumer products, they continue to evolve, whether it is additional content or other experiences and functionality, and we will do the same thing.”
The NFL already has an out-of-market video offering that includes streaming, NFL Sunday Ticket. Those rights are currently on the market, with digital companies like Apple and Amazon among the bidders, alongside existing partners like Disney. NFL Sunday Ticket is available on all devices, including connected TVs and streaming sticks, with NFL+’s in-market video and live audio really built around mobile consumption.
“The individuals watching on these phones or tablets are either incremental from a unique standpoint, or they are incremental in terms of additional consumption, where perhaps they weren’t in front of a TV and couldn’t catch it there,” Jurenka says, of the rationale for the new service.
The league has also operated a service called Game Pass, which included streaming of some pre-season games, as well as in-season games on an on-demand basis. A spokesperson for the league confirms that NFL+ will replace the domestic version of Game Pass, but the league will continue to offer the international version of Game Pass.
Indeed, Game Pass served as something of a starting point for NFL+, Jurenka says, adding that the league “looked at what we were doing well there, and what we could perhaps do better on that front” as it was gaming out the new service.
Major League Baseball and the NBA also have streaming offerings, focused on out-of-market games, with NBA League Pass and MLB.tv, while the NHL struck a deal to bring its streaming games to the ESPN+ service.