Earlier this month, the National Football League announced that it had secured TV broadcast deals with both CBS and NBC for Thursday Night Football, but that leaves a major market untapped. The league is also reportedly in talks with a number of tech companies about streaming rights to Thursday Night Football.
The NFL isn’t disclosing which companies it is in talks with specifically, simply saying that it is “in active discussions with prospective digital partners,” about the rights. Multiple sources say that Apple, Amazon, Google, and Verizon are among the companies the league is in discussions with, according to Variety. Those companies aren’t talking publicly either, but the lack of a flat-out denial from any of them lends credibility to the sources’ reports.
Much as the league signed deals with two television networks, it isn’t necessarily a given that only one firm will get streaming rights. The NFL is considering a number of different scenarios as to how this could work, including possibly mixing in games played overseas.
Last month we reported that Apple and Google were vying for rights to host streams for three games that will be hosted in London next season. Only Apple, however, is currently looking to launch an Internet streaming TV service — as far as we know, anyway. Then again, Google does own a little video site called YouTube.
While Apple is keeping tight-lipped about its plans for an Internet TV service after hitting a snag in securing deals with content creators, it’s clear that the company is on a serious hunt for video content. Considering the war chest of around $200 billion it has in cash on hand, the company is also in a position to outbid most of the competition. And if Apple really wants an advantage over potential streaming foes, exclusive streaming rights to NFL games would certainly be a coup.
This won’t be the first time that NFL games have been streamed online. Last year, Yahoo became the first company to exclusively stream an NFL game throughout the world. Given the company’s current troubles, however, it’s doubtful that it is currently in the running to stream future games.
CBS and NBC will both stream their respective games online, but only to subscribers of pay-TV services. It’s clear that the NFL is considering expanding away from this model, but who the league will partner with is still in the air.