The NFL’s broadcast rights deals end in 2022, and the league is already starting to think about what those negotiations might look like.
Compared to the last round of rights negotiations, the NFL has more possible suitors for their product in the form of various streaming companies, like DAZN, Amazon, and the oft-mentioned but never actually linked Netflix. The NFL has waded into those waters in recent years thanks to complimentary deals with both Yahoo and Amazon/Twitch, but this is a big opportunity for those digital companies to take control of a sizable chunk of NFL rights.
Speaking with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin at the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked about the next round of TV rights negotiations.
About the possibility of streaming services obtaining broadcasting rights, Goodell said, “I think those are the things we’ll have to work out. I think this next negotiation is going to be fun, more complex. Probably will include additional players because our whole strategy is to have great reach and to be able to engage our fans. And you have to do that on different platforms.”
It’s a generic, corporate-friendly answer that doesn’t really tell us much of anything. Of course the NFL wants more suitors for its product, because that will drive up the eventual price for any of those rights packages. Goodell isn’t going to say that they’re content with their current partners, because that gives the league less leverage with those partners.
Having said that, Goodell also mentioned that he wants the league to have “great reach.” That sounds nice, but it gets more complicated the deeper you look into the situation. Sure, Amazon might be open to furthering their relationship with the NFL by having exclusive games on the service, but given that the league is already working with Amazon, how much would that actually expand their reach? Netflix has stated time and time again that they’re not interested in live sports, yet are still mentioned as possible suitors, so that’s another seemingly obvious way to expand the league’s reach that appears to be a non-starter.
DAZN is also interested in NFL rights, but a deal between the NFL and DAZN would be far more beneficial to DAZN, who needs the NFL way more than the NFL needs DAZN at this point in time.
However, the NFL should be wary about getting in bed with a digital company (especially when talking about the rights to one of the league’s cornerstone packages) because of the growing pains that streaming services are still experiencing, the league’s average viewer age, and the fact that it became such a dominant force in American sports thanks to its reliance on broadcast television. While there may be a need to reach a younger audience, the league can’t overlook its older, core audience and the broadcast networks that give the league the maximum possible reach (and the billions of dollars that comes along with it)