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Why Netflix's new NFL deal has some sports fans crying foul

Lucia Moses   

Why Netflix's new NFL deal has some sports fans crying foul
  • Netflix secured a three-season deal with the NFL to air two games on Christmas Day.
  • The deal boosts the streamer's ad business, appealing to advertisers seeking live sports audiences.

Score one for Netflix, which just announced a three-season deal with the NFL and is set to show two of the league's games on Christmas Day this year, Ravens-Texans and Chiefs-Steelers.

For those who care about Netflix's ability to grow its nascent advertising business, it's a big deal. Advertisers pay a lot for audiences that are tuning in for live sports, and unlike with TV shows and movies, those audiences expect to see ads during breaks in the action on the field.

For sports fans, it's another story. The number of places where the NFL's 272 regular season games are set to be spread is now seven: Four TV networks (CBS, Fox, Disney, and NBC), with a handful airing on Amazon, NFL Network, and now, Netflix.

All in, it could cost fans $1,600 to watch all the games without cable, The Guardian reported, citing MarketWatch estimates.

That assumes you're subscribing to Netflix's cheapest tier, the $6.99 a month "basic with ads" option, which has other limitations, and that you don't forget to cancel your subscription after watching the games. But the bet Netflix and other streamers are making is that you keep subscribing to watch all the other stuff they have, including movies, TV shows, and live specials. An Antenna report found that 71% of Peacock subscribers who signed up to watch an exclusive playoff game earlier this year remained subscribers nearly seven weeks later.

And it's not just the NFL that's seeing distribution creep. For the past 21 years, the NBA has had just two TV partners: Disney's ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery's TNT. Media analysts widely expect the NBA to select more distributors for its next media-rights deal after the current setup expires in 2025. They expect the NBA will opt for three to avoid spreading its games too thin, though.

The leagues would say they're just following the viewers, who themselves are splitting their time across multiple streaming services as well as TV.

They're also chasing the growing pot of money for sports rights that media platforms are willing to pay for live sports' lucrative audiences.

Some viewers also may not remember or realize that when they subscribed to cable, they were paying for sports via their cable package — whether they watched sports or not.

But with the costs unbundled and viewers having to hunt around to find them, it's no surprise that some NFL fans are crying foul.

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