The NFL’s Strategic Shift: Embracing the Streaming Era

The NFL’s Strategic Shift: Embracing the Streaming Era

In an era where more Americans are opting to cut the cable cord and turn to streaming platforms for their video content, the National Football League (NFL) is strategically moving with this trend, setting new records in the process.

The shift towards streaming is proving to be a game-changer for the NFL. The league’s Amazon-exclusive Thursday night streaming gained significant traction from 2023 to 2024. An even more impressive milestone was reached during Saturday night’s historic first-ever streamed playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. This game, watched by a whopping 23 million viewers, became the most-streamed live event in U.S. history.

This record-breaking viewership surpassed the previous record set by the late November game between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, which attracted 15.26 million viewers.

The success of these streaming experiments suggests that we could see at least one playoff game streamed annually. However, the NFL must tread carefully. The removal of too many key games from free, over-the-air TV could jeopardize the NFL’s broadcast antitrust exemption. Losing this would significantly complicate the league’s broadcast-rights strategy.

The NFL's Strategic Shift: Embracing the Streaming Era

Moreover, while streaming may generate higher revenue than free TV, it usually results in a smaller total audience. Given that televised football games serve as a three-hour advertisement for the sport, attracting a large viewership is crucial for the NFL’s growth and popularity.

Therefore, despite the promising potential of streaming, the NFL needs to maintain a balanced approach. Abandoning traditional TV outlets entirely could be detrimental to the league for various reasons. It’s clear that as the NFL skates towards the future, it must strategically navigate the thin ice between traditional broadcasting and streaming platforms.


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