The world’s largest social network will not be the exclusive streaming home of Thursday Night Football for at least the next two years. A person familiar with the NFL’s plans for streaming the weekly Thursday Night Football games told Bloomberg that Facebook has dropped out of bidding for the package. Other companies, though, are still in the mix to stream sports’ most valuable content.
Google and Apple were rumored in January as the two interested in streaming the NFL’s three London games for the 2016 season. Shortly after, the league started shopping around streaming rights for Thursday Night Football in 2016 and 2017. Google and Apple, both interested in that package as well, were then joined by fierce competitors vying to earn the millions of eyeballs the NFL attracts anywhere and everywhere it goes. Amazon, Facebook, and Verizon were all among the other companies discussing deals with the NFL.
According to Friday’s Bloomberg report, Facebook is no longer in the mix because of commercials and those aforementioned London games.
The source revealed that Facebook became disinterested in streaming any NFL games because the league wanted to install a traditional advertising model with commercial breaks. Facebook didn’t want to budge on its strategy of offering live, untouched video. It’s not clear what else the social network could have done to monetize streaming games outside of putting advertisements over live video rather than cutting away like we see on television. If Facebook had any ideas, they weren’t suitable for what the NFL demands.
Streaming the London games was also an issue with the social network because of the “early morning” starts times in the United States. As we saw with Yahoo’s streaming of a single game during the 2015 season, people were not as receptive to streaming a game in the morning as expected. It really only made sense for fans of the teams in that game to watch but CBS was airing the game on television anyway.
At this point, it seems that three companies remain in the race to get streaming rights for Thursday Night Football and the London games. Verizon, Yahoo, and Amazon are said to be “considered contenders for the rights” that will be rewarded very soon. Verizon and Amazon, in my opinion, are the frontrunners because of their existing relationships with the NFL. Yahoo is on the outside because of its difficulties streaming last year’s London game. Verizon is a prominent league sponsor and acts as the exclusive home for streaming games on phones while Amazon just inked a deal with the league to stream a new docuseries following the Arizona Cardinals. The NFL doesn’t like to toy with its content, and going with an experienced and familiar partner is ideal for the league’s nature.