NFL may launch dedicated football streaming service

(Stock image via Pexels/Graphic by The Desk)

The National Football League is in the preliminary stages of developing its own streaming television service, according to a report.

Sports-centric news website The Athletic reported last week that football team owners were briefed on the development of an NFL streaming service during a recent conference in Florida.

The Athletic said the forthcoming NFL streaming service, tentatively called NFL Plus, would contain a mixture of live and on-demand content, though it was not clear from the report if the service would include live video of football games at launch or in the future. Digital streaming rights for live games are currently held by several broadcasters, including Fox Corporation, Paramount Global, ESPN (the Walt Disney Company, Hearst Television), Comcast’s NBC Universal and Amazon’s Prime Video.

The NFL retains some digital and broadcast rights for in-progress games — both in-market and out-of-market — that are aired Sunday afternoons across local Fox and CBS stations for the league’s own NFL Network and NFL RedZone channels, which are exclusive to pay TV platforms. Access to all Sunday afternoon NFL games outside a viewer’s home market are available through the NFL’s Sunday Ticket service, which is exclusive to DirecTV through 2023.

The league also holds the exclusive broadcast rights to Thursday night football games, starting with this upcoming season. Those games will air on the NFL Network and will stream on Amazon Prime Video; they were previously available to watch on Fox.

Rumors have circulated that the NFL is holding preliminary discussions with several technology companies, including Apple and Amazon, that could see the Sunday Ticket land on another streaming service. It was not clear from the report if an NFL-developed streaming service could serve as the home of NFL Sunday Ticket should those talks fall apart. Reports indicate the NFL is seeking a price north of $2 billion for the right to air or stream out-of-market Sunday afternoon games.

According to the Athletic, NFL Plus would serve subscribers podcasts, radio programming and content developed by NFL teams. How much the streaming service will cost, if anything at all, was not immediately available.