Looking to upgrade your football-watching experience this fall? Good news: there’s finally an NFL streaming service.
The National Football League joined the ranks of its professional peers, announcing the launch of the new NFL+ streaming service on July 25. The NFL believes that expanding the sport and bringing the televised game onto a forward-thinking platform can bring fans deeper into the action.
“Today marks an important day in the history of the National Football League,” NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said in a statement. “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.”
The NFL had been an outlier, the only U.S. professional sports league that didn’t offer a direct-to-consumer streaming service. But, now that it’s joined, the NFL still has some catching up to do. As opposed to NBA League Pass, NHL.TV or MLB.TV, NFL+ will only offer preseason and primetime games outside of home markets.
So what do you get? For $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year, NFL+ offers streaming live local and primetime games, including the NFL playoffs, exclusively on phones and mobile tablets. That’s the same content that NFL app users could access for the past several years. As the league did not have mobile rights to games, this charge essentially came from phone plans. That expired at the end of last season, and the NFL has decided that it’s time for fans to pay the piper.
Increased programming on NFL+ will feature access to NFL Network shows on-demand and NFL Films archives. There is also an upgraded premium version for $9.99 per month (or $79.99 per year) that upgrades the package with full game replays and other supplements.
NFL+ essentially replaces Game Pass in the U.S., which originated with Game Rewind in 2009, a service for fans to watch online game replays. Rewind gained traction in 2012 when the league added coaches film and two new camera angles to game action. In 2015, Rewind leveled up to Game Pass, mixing in NFL Originals and other programming. Existing Game Pass subscribers in the U.S. are automatically being transitioned to NFL+ Premium.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the strategy for this direct-to-consumer offering is built on this broadening NFL experience, which gives the league the ability to understand what fans and non-fans are seeking and to customize it for them.
“We think this is a major step forward. It will evolve, build and get better as more and more content becomes available on this platform,” Goodell said. “The work that we’ve done either with other offerings or research has helped us frame this in a way that we think would be very attractive and engage our fans.”
Additions to access the sport include Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, access to NFL archives, and Sunday Ticket, a DirectTV service that allows fans to stream out-of-town games. The launch of NFL+ marks the continued evolution of these innovations. Amazon Prime Video will stream 15 Thursday night matchups this year, and the $1.5 billion Sunday Ticket contract with DirectTV expires at the end of this season. With the NFL focused on streaming offerings, Amazon, Apple and Google have all emerged as frontrunners to supersede DirectTV, which has owned NFL airing rights since 1994.
It will be interesting to see how the NFL streaming service succeeds. Sunday coverage for casual fans is usually consumed on televisions. Hardcore fans and gambling aficionados can catch all the action on the much broader (and more expensive) NFL Game Pass (now NFL+ Premium). Cord-cutting streamers seem to be the niche, but the question remains if they are willing to add another expense to their digital tab.
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