Why you can expect more NFL games to head to streaming

The 2023-2024 NFL playoffs saw an NFL first.

No, not the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, which despite frigid conditions went into the history books as just the fourth-coldest game in NFL history.

But the way that game was broadcast.

For the first time in NFL history, a playoff game was streamed exclusively on a streaming service. In this case, the Chiefs-Dolphins game was exclusive to Peacock, the streaming service having paid a reported $110 million for the rights to air the game.

The ratings, as they tend to be with the NFL, were massive. 23 million people watched the game, making it the largest streaming event in history. While many were able to tune in locally in the Kansas City and Miami markets, this was a big first step.

The question, of course, is whether more games will become streaming exclusives. Given recent data, it seems that door is open.

Perhaps wide open.

According to analysis from Antenna, a service dedicated to analyzing subscriber data, the idea that fans would subscribe to a streaming service for a single NFL game, and then immediately unsubscribe, might be off the mark. As Antenna found, the vast majority of those who subscribed to Peacock for the Chiefs-Dolphins game actually stuck around and did not cancel immediately:

“In the case of Peacock, by the end of February, nearly seven weeks after the AFC Wild Card Weekend, Antenna observed 29% of the AFC Wild Card sign-up cohort had canceled their subscription, meaning 71% remained subscribed. Peacock’s one month survival rate across all 2023 sign-ups was 78%.”

Antenna also estimated that Peacock saw around three million signups for the streaming platform around the time of the AFC Wild Card game. The service did not offer a free trial at that time, so these subscriptions were all paid. Using that as a reference point, over two million new subscribers will still around come the end of February.

Two million subscribers at around $5.99 per month? Well, eventually you start talking about real money.

Antenna also looked at data around the Super Bowl, which was broadcast on CBS but also streamed on Paramount+, the network’s streaming service. According to Antenna around 3.4 million new subscribers signed up for Paramount+ in the three-day window ahead of the Super Bowl. Since Paramount+ did offer a free trial, Antenna observed that 68%, or 2.3 million of those new subscribers, took advantage of that trial.

But that means another 1.1 million new subscribers were paid.

And by the end of February Antenna found that 65% of those 3.4 million subscribers — approximately 2.2 million subscribers — either “remained subscribed to their paid subscription or had converted their free trial to paid.”

Antenna summarized the data in this graphic:

Screenshot 2024 03 26 at 2.35.23 PM

The lesson? Most who subscribed to streaming platforms for NFL games, or at least these two games, actually stuck around and did not immediately cancel, as many assumed. Perhaps they stuck around because they liked the additional content, or maybe they forgot to cancel.

But the streaming services are happy either way.

Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII Roger Goodell noted that while a streaming-only Super Bowl would not happen “in his lifetime,” he also made the case for offering games on streaming services.

“Our fans are on these platforms. Our fans want to access them,” said Goodell in February. “The technology’s extraordinary. You can do things on some of these platforms that you can’t do on the linear platform. So for us, it’s part of the future. I don’t know where it goes from here, but we’re going to continue to reach our fans where they are, with the best possible production, best possible technology.”

With numbers like those uncovered by Antenna, more streaming games are probably a safe bet.

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