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Apparently, television audiences for the NFL are getting smaller and smaller.  Which is why the NFL has struck a new digital rights deal with Verizon Communications.  But will this solve the problem?  The League and Verizon announced an extension to their mobile streaming agreement through 2022.  The agreement will give fans a series of options besides the traditional method of watching their local teams on TV.  This option is also for games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights.  They will even be able to watch playoff games and the Super Bowl.

The deal is going to cost Verizon more than $2 billion over the next five years.  But it gives the telecommunications giant the rights to stream games across a variety of digital media brands – including Yahoo Sports, Complex, and go90.  In addition, fans no longer have to be Verizon customers in order to gain access to the games. Anyone can watch them, regardless of who is their mobile service provider.  CBS, NBC, ESPN, and Fox currently pay the NFL some $5 billion a year for the rights to televised those games. Those rights help those networks garner top fees from pay television distributors and help those distributors convince subscribers not to cut off their cable subscriptions.

Like with previous agreements with Amazon, Twitter, and Yahoo, the Verizon agreement is an interesting one.  It demonstrates that the NFL is trying to broaden their reach, especially with younger audiences who may not have a pay television subscription.  Even if it means that they will potentially anger their television partners as they approach the start of negotiations for new deals.  What does Roger Goodell have to say about this?  “Live NFL action directly on your mobile devices – regardless of carrier – will give millions of fans additional ways to follow their favorite sport”.  Of course he’s on board.  This is money in his pocket.

I think this is directed at people who don’t want to be stuck at home on a Sunday afternoon.  Sure, you can go to a bar.  But what if you have a bunch of errands to run with your spouse?  Why not pull up the game while you’re out getting groceries?  Perhaps your spouse won’t like that, but I think that there is another target for this that the NFL isn’t directly pointing to.

Hans Schroeder, an NFL executive in charge of media believes that fans won’t choose to watch on their phones instead of their television.  I don’t buy that.  This is only applicable if you’re not at home.  And who is home that much these days?  He states, “we think this is a very complimentary way of growing, engaging and reaching younger fans that will ultimately become longer term viewers”.

Do you think that’s true? I’m going back to my original statement and I think this is a way to get more people to watch it when they’re “stuck” doing other things.  I would love to open a football game on my phone if I’m waiting for an appointment.  Or if I’m a passenger, stuck in traffic. Maybe that’s not the best example, but you can see where I’m going with this, I think.  I suspect the NFL has a strategy that they’re not being straightforward about.

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