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Netflix approaches ESPN, CBS & NBC about producing Christmas NFL games

Some of the broadcasters have expressed a hesitancy to help Netflix produce their Christmas Day games.

Some of the broadcasters have expressed a hesitancy to help Netflix produce their Christmas Day games.

(Stock image via Pixabay, Graphic by The Desk)
(Stock image via Pixabay, Graphic by The Desk)

Netflix has held discussions with a number of traditional television broadcasters to serve as its production partner for two Christmas Day football games, according to a report.

Executives have consulted with the Walt Disney Company’s ESPN, Paramount Global’s CBS and Comcast’s NBC about taking on production responsibilities for the two games, according to CNBC, who cited people familiar with the matter. CNBC shares common ownership with NBC, and frequently breaks news involving its parent company, Comcast.

Fox and CBS Sports have existing obligations to produce Sunday morning and afternoon games that will air before and after the Christmas Day games. Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, and the logistics of producing one or both games for Netflix can be challenging, as the crews for both networks have to travel and set up for their own games.

ESPN is definitively ruled out as a broadcast partner, CNBC said, because the network already has production obligations for college football games that are airing around the same time as the Christmas Day games.

That leaves NBC, which already produces Thursday Night Football games for Amazon’s Prime Video, which has held the national telecast rights to those games for the past two years. Less clear is whether NBC’s agreement with Amazon allows it to serve as a broadcast production partner for another company, including a competing platform like Netflix.

The broadcast networks are also hesitant to lend their resources to Netflix out of concerns that the streaming platform could eventually try to pursue additional regular season football rights, potentially using the Christmas Day games as a test run toward that objective. The concern is that, if Netflix is successful, it might pursue a rights package that cuts out one of the broadcast networks. The current telecast rights packages, which involve all but a few games, are locked in through the 2032-2033 football season.

The situation affords Netflix few options, and also indicates the streaming service pushed ahead with securing national telecast rights to a pair of National Football League (NFL) games without first having strategized over who would produce them.

In a pinch, the NFL itself might be able to produce the Netflix games, as it has production crews and its own cameras at each televised event, but those crews tend to focus their efforts on producing content for documentaries and ancillary programming offered by NFL Films. If that happened, the games on Netflix could wind up looking somewhat different from what sports fans are used to on the other networks.

Last month, media strategist Stanlei Bellan of Juice Media said Netflix’s pursuit of live football and other sports was a play meant to appease advertisers, who want more premium, appointment-viewing television for their campaigns.

“They’ve got more demand than they can handle, or were expecting, and that’s leading to a rush to develop as many content deals as they can,” Bellan said in a joint interview with The Desk and ad industry publication Spots n Dots.

Netflix might be spending big to get just two games this year, but Bellan said those games will super-serve the streamer’s advertising clients, who want more live events that can reach a sizable audience across platforms and at the same time.

“With these games, everyone will be watching the same thing at the same time,” Bellan affirmed, noting that “the Christmas Day games are a nice touch, because it associates the NFL and Netflix with a specific date.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.

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