Peacock’s Exclusive NFL Playoff Stream Just the Beginning

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If you were one of the football fans gnashing their teeth at the thought of being forced to pay for an NFL playoff game, you were not alone. If you actually decided to boycott the game and not give Peacock your $5.99 for the privilege of watching the Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs, you were in a small minority.

NBC and Peacock were so proud of the 23-million viewers the game on Saturday night averaged, they spent much of their NFL coverage the rest of the weekend talking about it.

To be fair to the naysayers, the 23-million includes viewers in Miami and Kansas City who watched the game on their regular NBC stations. But for Peacock, and for the future of NFL streaming, the numbers are good. The audience figure was up six percent from the same slot on Wild Card weekend last year, and Saturday’s game was the most livestreamed event in U.S. history. It also led to Saturday being the highest day ever for internet usage in the country.

The previous major shift in NFL playoff programming came in 2015, when ESPN broadcast the first NFL playoff game on cable. That inaugural cable offering averaged 21.7 million viewers.

And the Money Keeps Rolling In

In 2023, 93 of the 100 most-watched broadcasts were NFL games. Of the other seven, three of them were college football games, and there was the State of the Union, the Academy Awards, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Fox show Next Level Chef, which happened to be airing immediately following the Super Bowl.

The NFL has fully embraced sports betting, and this season they made $132 million from gambling-related sponsorships. And that doesn’t include any increase in revenue driven by increased viewership, fueled by the millions of Americans betting each week at online sportsbooks.

The NFL received $110 million from Peacock to give them the exclusive rights to broadcast a primetime playoff game. Considering that the amount for that gamble is almost the same as the growth in revenue from the five-year old gamble to embrace sports betting, it is guaranteed that we will see more streaming-only playoff games.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he and the league were “thrilled with the results.” Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts called the streaming of the game “a very proud moment.”

The $110 million paid by Peacock for the Wild Card broadcast is just a small percentage of the $2 billion NBC pays the NFL for broadcasting rights.

That means that the $110 million figure has plenty of room to grow. NBC will want to repeat a streaming playoff game next year and in years to come. And with CBS, Fox, Amazon, and ABC/ESPN also all in the NFL broadcasting business, NBC won’t be alone in fighting for their slice of the NFL’s streaming pie.

It is unlikely that the Super Bowl will become a streaming pay-per-view event anytime soon. The over-the-air reach and profitability is simply too great. But the rest of the postseason is now fair game.

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