The NFL on Netflix? It could happen, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
Disappointed by the ratings of its own cable network, the National Football League is contemplating a second Thursday night game for its weekly roster which would air on a different channel. The obvious home for a second Thursday game would be a major network or basic cable channel. However a ‘person familiar with the league’s strategy’ said ‘a nontraditional media partner’ such as Google or Amazon is also a possibility, a claim that probably caused several suicides at NBC.
With the fragmentation of television audiences and the rise of DVRs, live sporting events have remained the most bankable programming for traditional networks, with pro football at the top of the heap. If a subscription service was able to cut a deal with the NFL, it could prove to be a real threat to network ad revenue.
But encroachment from Internet-based players such as Netflix, Google, or Amazon could also spell doom for cable providers. As it stands now, cable and satellite customers are forced to purchase packages with hundreds of channels, most of which they have little or no interest in watching. With providers refusing to offer à la carte options, some people are opting out of cable altogether and using the Internet (legally and illegally) to fill in the gaps. If the NFL was to partner with an Internet-based service, that trend would surely accelerate.
Granted, the league is currently locked into existing contracts, and is currently only discussing a Thursday-night game. However, the long-term consequences of such a deal could transform the way we watch sports.