The latest $2 billion rights deal between the NFL and Verizon doesn't seem to be good for anybody

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  • The NFL and Verizon just announced a $US2 billion deal through which the telecom giant will stream football games.
  • The deal follows a tough year for the NFL, on and off the field.
  • The games are available over the free airwaves in many cases, and its not clear how large of an audience Verizon can create for the NFL.

The NFL has had a rough season, on and off the field.

To review, as Will Leitch recently noted in New York magazine, half the country is mad at the players for kneeling during the national anthem. The other half is freaking out about concussions.

Not to mention that tons of stars have gotten hurt, from New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz yesterday. The games haven’t been very good either.

So a $US2 billion-plus cash infusion from Verizon is great news, right? Here’s how the companies described it in a press release:NFL and Verizon Announce Game-Changing Partnership to Distribute Unprecedented Mobile Access to Live NFL Games.

Hmm. This may be one of those deals both parties wake up and regret in a few years.

$US2 billion-plus seems like a lot of money for a package that seems extremely diluted

Did you know that Verizon had been paying for exclusive mobile streaming rights for NFL games for years? It’s never been clear how successful this deal has been for the wireless carrier, but the NFL surely enjoyed the money.

Now, according to Recode, Verizon will stream NFL games to all carriers.


  • The games are all already on TV.
  • Some of the games are on Amazon.
  • The highlights in question are available on the NFL’s website, its YouTube page, and its Facebook page. They will also be on Instagram, Snapchat, and on ESPN a thousand times a day.

Yes, if you are a cord-cutter, this may appeal for many reasons. But again, you can watch many of these games on broadcast TV if you have an antenna. And if you pay for a skinny bundle like Sling TV or DirectTV Now, you’ll get lots of NFL games too.

Verizon’s had NFL streaming rights since 2010. That streaming was contained to the NFL app. The audience doesn’t seem very big.

Here’s some very rough maths. On November 17, an NFL press release said the Average Minute Audience for the previous Thursday night game on Amazon Prime Video,, the NBC Sports app, the NFL Mobile app (which is Verizon’s stream), Watch NFL Network, the NFL app on Microsoft, and NFL Game Pass (International) was 409,000 viewers.

The same release said that the average worldwide audience for Amazon during that game was 303,000. So how many people actually watched the game as part of the Verizon offering? Doesn’t seem like many.

There’s no doubt that there are occasions to watch NFL games on your phone. And those will only increase. But again, if you have cable or a skinny bundle you can stream these games. For the rest of those fans, there’s Yahoo Sports and go90.

To be fair, Yahoo has always had a big audience for its fantasy football product. You could see Verizon building a clever interface that drives visitors to watch live games on the site while seeing their fantasy teams’ performance updated in real time.

Meanwhile, Verizon has never really said how big it’s go90 audience is. During an interview last month at Business Insider’s Ignition conference, Verizon’s outgoing media chief said that the free video app has had success with live sports, as well as teen dramas. So it would seem to make sense to lean into live sports. But $US2 billion-plus seems like a lot of money for a package that seems extremely diluted.

On the plus side, Verizon is going to be able to sell some TV ads during these games

While the same national ads that will be shown on TV will air during these mobile streams, the wireless company will have access to the two minutes of ads each hour that are typically sold by local TV stations.

That’s the same type of ad inventory that Amazon has been selling this year. Theoretically, Verizon will be able to do some pretty interesting targeting experiments with this ad space, given the data it has on its wireless customers.

In addition, Verizon gets to run some of its own ads during NFL games on TV.

Aside from ads, maybe this new deal will motivate more people to try Yahoo Sports or go90, on their phones or even through connected TVs. However, executives at Verizon like to talk about the size of the company’s wireless network, and their ability to “push out” content.

But if the extent of your relationship with the company is paying a monthly cell phone bill, how exactly do they push to you? If you’re an NFL fan and you read about this deal, do you even know where to start?

It seems like the NFL had could have found a better deal, one that would impact more consumers and actually make existing partners happy

How can getting another $US2 billion-plus in your pocket not be a great thing? Especially given the heat the league has taken, that price is clearly an affirmation of the value of live NFL games. And that should set a precedent going forward.

True – but the league isn’t exactly hurting for money. Witness the fact that they just handed a commissioner almost no one likes, Roger Goodell, a five year, $US200 million contract.

Surely Goodell and company see a victory in getting more of its content out there. That’s coming when NFL ratings have been in decline for several years now, and an often identified culprit is overexposure.

NFL players and fans have grumbled about the addition of Thursday night games, which are seen as low quality, and the once restrained league now has games on TV three nights a week. Now you can stream them on Yahoo Sports and go90, if you want to.

Does this make the NFL’s broadcast partners happy? Or does this make their expensive, exclusive rights less exclusive? It’s worth noting that all of the league’s Thursday night deals expire after this year. Does this make the likes of CBS and Amazon more or less interested?

We could be wrong, but it seems like the NFL had could have found a better deal, one that would impact more consumers and actually make existing partners happy.

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