North American football’s NFL has announced that one of this season's playoff games will be aired solely on a digital platform for the first time as part of a new rights deal with NBCUniversal (NBCU).
Described as the “first-ever exclusive live-streamed NFL playoff game,” the 2023 season’s Saturday night game on Wild Card Weekend will stream across NBCU’s streaming platform Peacock on January 13 during prime time at either 8:15PM or 8:30PM (ET). NBC and Peacock will also air the wild-card game in prime time the next day.
The game will also be broadcast free-to-air on NBC stations in markets of the two teams playing, as well as across mobile devices through the NFL+ package. It will be preceded by a late afternoon playoff game on NBC and Peacock at 4:30PM.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed but the US news outlet Wall Street Journal reported the one-year deal is worth $110 million.
Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media, said: “We had our first season with Amazon [this past year] and I think that with the digital platforms, we’re ready for live sports at scale. And the next step is to step into the postseason.
“We like the plan that Peacock and NBC put together. In this case, knowing we’re going to have a bigger audience and focused on having the widest reach possible across each platform.”
Under the NFL’s postseason domestic rights contract, each of its four broadcast partners – NBC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN/ABC – gets at least one wild-card game per season. Of the two remaining games, one rotates each year between NBC, CBS, and Fox, while the other is up for bidding each year.
NBC also has the prime-time Sunday wild-card game on January 14, while Fox and CBS have the earlier contests that day. ESPN will air the Monday game to close the opening weekend on January 15. This will be the third year the NFL has played the wild-card games over three days.
The Saturday night wild-card game has drawn over 20 million viewers over the past two seasons. Last season’s game between the Jacksonville Jaguar and Chargers averaged 20.6 million, while the Buffalo and New England match the season before averaged 26.4 million.
The new deal builds on the NFL’s current 11-year rights contract with NBCU, which began this season. Under the deal, Peacock also has exclusive rights to one regular season game per season, which this year will be on December 23 when the Buffalo Bills take on the Los Angeles Chargers in prime time.
This is the NFL’s latest move into streaming after awarding Amazon Prime Video, the streaming platform of the e-commerce giant, exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football last season. International broadcaster ESPN has rights to show one international game per season on ESPN+ since 2021.
The new deal also comes after NBCU announced Peacock as the home of its Paris 2024 Olympic Games coverage, which will see the platform stream every event of every sport, including all 329 medal events.
The pivot towards its streaming platform as the main hub of Olympic coverage marks a shift in strategy as NBCU looks to simplify the audience experience after experiencing low viewership figures during the previous Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
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