As of now, there is only one way to stream NFL games on mobile devices: through the NFL Mobile app on a Verizon product. If you’re on your phone, you can’t access games on WatchESPN or FoxSportsGo, and if you have AT&T or T-Mobile, you’re completely out of luck.
But it sounds as if that arrangement will soon come to an end. Sports Business Journal’s Daniel Kaplan reported Monday that when Verizon’s four-year, $1 billion deal with the NFL wraps up after this season, the league will seek to spread around mobile rights.
Only customers of Verizon can stream games on their phones, which has become an irritant for entities like ESPN, which pay for rights to platforms like “Monday Night Football” but then cannot offer it on mobile. Making the games available on as many platforms as possible is the goal, the NFL source said. Verizon could retain its sponsorship and rights to stream games, but it appears other mobile companies would get the opportunity to air the streams too.
It may have made sense years ago, when mobile streaming felt like a niche luxury, for the NFL to sell exclusive rights to the highest bidder, but times have changed. Mobile streaming has become part of many sports fans’ consumption diets, and it makes little sense to limit where potential viewers can find games. From the NFL’s perspective, it drives away audiences, upsets television partners, and likely fails to maximize revenue.
You have to imagine ESPN, CBS, Fox, NBC, and various data providers and tech companies are willing to fork over eight, nine, or ten-figure fees for streaming rights, and the NFL is surely going to take advantage.
In the end, not only will networks benefit from being able to stream games they pay big money to air, but fans will benefit, as well. Especially, of course, fans who don’t use Verizon.