Commentators, from left, Jac Collinsworth, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison talk on-air for NBC/Peacock Sunday Night Football after the game of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023 at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-7. Credit: Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

In the days leading up to Peacock’s exclusive broadcast of the NFL Playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons predicted it would be “one of the all-time sports television disasters.”

He wasn’t alone in saying that NFL audiences might revolt after being asked to sign up for yet another streaming service for yet another exclusive game, as if the league needs more money that badly. There were plenty of NFL fans voicing their frustrations and anger over the decision, and a Congressperson even got involved.

In the end, plenty of them signed up for Peacock to watch the game. Around 23 million people tuned in to watch Kansas City defeat Miami 26-7. While that’s not the kind of number they would have gotten on broadcast or linear, NBC Sports and Peacock were over the moon.

While some tried to paint this as a loss, they failed to understand what the NFL was trying to do. There’s a reason why Amazon has already snatched up next season’s playoff exclusive. And we’ll probably see two streaming-exclusive playoff games in a season soon.

While fans might have felt powerless to stop the NFL from making these financially-friendly deals, there was seemingly one way they could stick it to the league and its streaming partners. Cancel their subscriptions en masse immediately following the game. Plenty of people talked about doing so.

However, in the ultimate proof of why these exclusive games are a win-win for those involved, not that many people did. At least, no more than usual.

In March, Antenna estimated three million people signed up for Peacock to watch the exclusive playoff game. 71 percent, or around 2.1 million, stuck around through at least February. While that cancellation rate is slightly higher than the norm, it was a negligible difference as far as they’re concerned.

Paramount+ saw similar retention rates after Super Bowl LVII. Antenna estimated that 3.4 million subscribers signed up for the game and 65 percent either kept their subscription or converted their free trial to a paid subscription.

All of this is worth noting as the American TV consumer is settling into a new phase of the streaming service era that some have dubbed “subscription hopping.” Instead of just sitting on your streaming subscriptions indefinitely, savvy subscribers are canceling services when the show or event they initially signed up for is over, returning only when the next worthwhile show or event appears.

Per a New York Times article on the subject, “More than 29 million — about a quarter of domestic paying streaming subscribers — have canceled three or more services over the last two years, according to Antenna, a subscription research firm. And the numbers are rising fast.”

Given how easy it is to start a subscription and cancel it, “nomadic subscribers” are becoming a larger part of the viewing audience for services like Peacock, Amazon, Paramount+, and Apple TV+, who are in a perpetual battle for not just subscribers but retention as well.

This also coincides with a time when subscription services can no longer skate by as loss leaders and must now show financial stability, which is no small feat in an ever-more crowded field. Many experts have suggested bundling might be the key to stability, ironic given the way the streaming era undid the lucrative cable era.

But in the meantime, it’s worth considering the value of exclusive sports content as a way to maintain a steady subscriber base. Surely it would be one part of a larger strategy, but, in theory, the more NFL content you have spread throughout the year, the less likely an NFL fan is to cancel their subscription.

The same goes for NBA fans, soccer fans, women’s basketball fans, and everyone else. Exclusives create a nice cornerstone you can build around, but if you can compensate for the windows following that event with more sports content that appeals to those who stuck around, you can cut down on that subscription hopping. At the very least, you can make your customers think about other subscriptions worth canceling before they decide on yours.

Of course, the last people to benefit from this arrangement are the subscribers themselves. The onus is on them to constantly monitor their subscriptions for value. Hitting the cancel button (as well as the “Are you sure?” button that always follows) is the only small victory that grants them a semblance of control over the matter.

“I don’t like this new system where you have to have a million different subscriptions to watch what you want to watch. I’m happy to cancel to punish the companies who are making me do this,” Josh Meisel told the NY Times.

That’s all well and good, but as the numbers show, that victory is pyrrhic at best. At least as long as the NFL and others continue handing out exclusives.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to