Bloomberg has reported that Verizon, the largest wireless carrier in the U.S., is close to signing a new deal with the NFL that would grant it digital streaming rights.
Verizon’s current deal with the NFL allows the carrier to live-stream games to devices which have seven-inch screens or smaller, but this new agreement would allow Verizon to stream football games to any device, including TVs.
While this deal will expand Verizon’s streaming service, it will also cost it the exclusivity the previous deal offered. Under Verizon’s current agreement, it is the only company allowed to stream NFL content to smartphones. However, this new contract would allow competitors such as Sling and other mobile carriers the right to stream games through their smartphone apps.
Currently, the NFL has spread its content among multiple parties. Verizon currently has the right to stream Sunday day games in a team’s home market, in addition to Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games. DirectTV has the rights to out-of-market Sunday day games, including on mobile devices.
For the past year or so, Verizon has been attempting to enter the already-crowded streaming market, but has failed to do so. One of the largest hurdles has been obtaining the rights to content. Rather than attempting to purchase media outlets or create its own content as Netflix does, Verizon is hoping deals such as this one will be enough to entice customers and advertisers.
Whether or not these deals will be enough to bring in customers remains to be seen. In a world with Netflix, YouTube TV, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney, and others, it may be difficult for any one company to make a dent in this market.
The NFL is likely hoping this deal will bring in new audiences as the league is currently in a bit of a slump due to declining ratings from traditional TV audiences. While cord-cutting is one of the reasons for the decline in NFL ratings, it is not the only one. Experts have cited numerous reasons, including the rising awareness of concussions, the poor performance of teams in major markets, and the recent protests by Colin Kaepernick and other players.
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