The last time we heard about the NFL and Google, it was back in 2013 when the league was using the Internet service company as a bargaining chip against DirecTV for the Sunday Ticket package. Of course, nothing came of the negotiations and the NFL signed a long-term contract with DirecTV for Sunday Ticket.
But that hasn’t stopped the NFL thinking about the future of distributing its games on another platform. According to this week’s MMQB column written by Peter King, the league is exploring the possibility of having Google carry games. It wouldn’t happen in this current TV contract as all of the games are spoken for, but Brian Rolapp, the executive vice president for media for the league as well as the President and CEO of NFL Network says it could happen sooner than you think.
“I think some things still have to change. If you would have asked me if those guys could carry live games five years ago, I’d probably say no. Now I’d say it’s closer than we think. Those are the types of things we learn. For us, the more we get out of not only our football bubble, but our sports bubble, and get out to other industries—mainly technology—and hear about what they’re learning, you always find lessons that you can apply back. Our view is, ‘Only the paranoid survive.’ If you’re not looking around the corner, if you’re not trying to get smarter, if you’re not looking for the lessons learned in other industries, then you’re going to wake up and find you’re not so popular anymore.”
Since the TV contracts run through 2022, King asked Rolapp if Google could get on board in 2023:
“I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I’m also not convinced that it has to be exclusive … When you have close to 70 percent of your fans having a second screen open while they’re watching the game on television, they’re doing all sorts of things. So it’s not necessarily about the internet or technology replacing the game on television, it’s about supplementing it and adding to it and making it better. So I think those are all avenues open to us. The other thing is that it’s not just about live game presentation. The biggest growth for the NFL, I think, has been not necessarily during the 256 regular-season games that we put on television—it’s the Monday through Saturday and it’s the offseason. The draft had 45 million people who watched it on television. Not too long ago the draft was a conference room in the New York Hilton and a chalkboard … If you give fans the right product, if you give them the right opportunities to interact with the stuff they love and feel passionate about it, not just when games are going on but throughout the week and throughout the year, that’s really where a lot of the growth is and technology helps fuel that.”
It appears that the NFL is open to having games on the internet. With so many new platforms for entertainment, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, tablets, Sony Playstation, etc., the NFL has to think about the future. Will TV even be a viable option in 2023? Would Facebook’s platforms be a possibility over Google?
These are all questions that will be answered over the next few years and the whole scenario will play out, but we know that the National Football League will be looking at every possible avenue when the new media rights negotiations begin in the next decade.