By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
This past Tuesday the NFL signed an exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless to stream not just Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games (along with the NFL Network & NFL RedZone) but also Sunday games starting in 2014. The cost to Verizon, a cool $1 billion over 4 years. This represents the first sports league to truly embrace cord cutting.
The NFL’s deal will gives fans access to Sunday games which are the local games. (If you live in Atlanta you see the Atlanta Falcons for example.) This is the first sports league to embrace this model. Other sports leagues like the NBA, MLB, NHL and even MLS blackout local games due to contracts with regional sports networks (RSNs). The NFL doesn’t have this problem. All of their tv rights are with national broadcasters or cable companies and not with RSNs.
What does this do for the average sports fan? Well it allows them access to their local game along with the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games without the cost of a cable or satellite bill. This is unprecedented.
This is not free though. It is only available on the NFL app on Verizon which costs $5 a month plus whatever data you use. This could make for a hefty mobile bill if you have a data limit on your smartphone. It is also not available on your tablet however there does not appear to be any effort to block you from switching the game from your smartphone to your TV via Apple TV (if you have the Apple TV device).
The NFL may be the only league to be able to get away with this kind of deal. With the amount of money that RSNs are paying out to their local teams it doesn’t seem likely that another league would be able to cut out the local RSNs without a significant battle. How much are the RSNs paying out? Well earlier this year the LA Dodgers signed a 25-year $7 billion deal with Time Warner Cable and a new RSN was formed, SportsNet LA.
The NFL has taken the first step in recognizing where their fans are going and making sure that their product is in front of them anywhere and everywhere. It’s not free but for the price it is not a bad option if you truly want to be a cord cutter.