- The National Football League (NFL) and Verizon are negotiating an expanded digital streaming deal, according to Bloomberg. Verizon can currently only stream games to devices with screens that are seven inches or smaller, but the new deal would include streaming to subscribers' internet-connected TVs as well as tablets and phones.
- As part of the deal, Verizon will lose its exclusive rights to air games to mobile devices, per Bloomberg, meaning that competitors like DirecTV Now and Dish Network's Sling TV could also offer streamed NFL games via their apps.
- Bloomberg reported that the deal was signed after being in the works for months, and the official announcement is expected soon.
Rather than trying to own media companies, it appears that Verizon is instead banking on deals like this one with the NFL, as well as one with the NBA, to help build an audience large enough to generate major advertising revenue. Verizon's go90 free, ad-supported streaming service for mobile continues to struggle and the compnay could be trying to reinvigorate it with a cross-platform approach.
Verizon's separate streaming deal for mobile devices illustrates how the NFL is looking to maximize its viewership and revenue from digital streaming.
Given the scope of Verizon's new deal with the football league, it appears the NFL is beginning to solidify its strategy around how it will distribute its content digitally as viewership continues to slump. Professional leagues like the NFL understand that unless they begin to branch out into streaming and mobile options, they run the risk of losing swarms of potential viewers, as consumers continue to cut the cord on cable TV with digital alternatives like YouTube and Netflix increasingly top-of-mind. Some league observers have also blamed declining viewership on player protests, the controversy over players' brain health and even a saturation of the product given that the NFL has its traditional full slate of Sunday games, along with Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.
The recent competition between big-name digital platforms for NFL streaming rights — including Verizon, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — points to how fans of major sports leagues are coveted by broadcasters and advertisers because they're generally considered loyal viewers.
In October, Amazon shelled out $80 million for the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this season, beating out last year's provider Twitter. During that 2016 bidding process, Twitter won over Verizon and Amazon.