Verizon will no longer be the exclusive U.S. mobile carrier for watching NFL games on smartphones and tablets. According to an announcement this morning, the company – and TechCrunch’s parent, by way of Oath – says that it has closed a new deal with the National Football League that will allow it to stream live games to fans regardless of mobile network.
The deal includes in-market and national games, including national pre-season, regular season, playoff games, and the Super Bowl nationwide. It doesn’t include the Sunday afternoon out-of-market games, which AT&T’s DirecTV has through the end of the 2022-23 season.
However, thanks to the new deal, nearly all NFL games will now be available across a number of digital and media platforms, including Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, AOL, Verizon’s g90 streaming app, and the NFL mobile app.
In addition to the live games themselves, the new agreement will also include NFL highlights and other weekly content, plus jointly developed original content.
The full deal goes into effect in the 2018-19 season, but some NFL postseason games will hit Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, go90 and the NFL Mobile app in January, 2018.
Verizon says its combination of digital and mobile properties reach over 200 million monthly unique users in the U.S. – an increased reach for the NFL, while also serving as a way for Verizon to better take advantage of the platforms it acquired via AOL and Yahoo (the combination that’s now called Oath).
And notably, the NFL is paying more for that expanded reach, too, according to reports. Recode’s sources say the new deal will cost Verizon over $1.5 billion over five years. The WSJ says the deal is worth more than $2 billion, and that Verizon’s annual rights and sponsorship fee to the NFL will rise from its current $250 million to more than $450 million.
Verizon says that it will continue to be an Official Sponsor of the NFL, and is also working with NFL teams on Smart Stadium technology to improve stadium operations.
The move comes at a time when the NFL, along with other sports leagues, are trying to reach the new, younger audience who often don’t watch live sports through traditional pay TV. The cord cutters and “cord nevers” instead turn to over-the-top streaming services like Sling TV to catch sports on ESPN, for example, or they might hook up a digital antenna for local channels. Some streaming services are even betting on the fact that many would prefer to pay less for access to TV by removing the costly channels carrying live sports, as is the case with newcomer Philo.
Meanwhile, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are also trying to snag some of that sports action for themselves. Facebook, for instance, did a deal with the NFL earlier this year to distribute highlights and recaps. Other big tech companies are vying for NFL games, too, like Amazon, which paid $50 million to stream 10 games for Prime members.
“We’re making a commitment to fans for Verizon’s family of media properties to become the mobile destination for live sports,” said Lowell McAdam, Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, in a statement. “The NFL is a great partner for us and we are excited to take its premier content across a massive mobile scale so viewers can enjoy live football and other original NFL content where and how they want it. We believe that partnerships like this are a win for fans, but also for partners and advertisers looking for a mobile-first experience,” he said.
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