Netflix gets the NFL: Three-year deal starts this season on Christmas

The San Francisco 49ers' star quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates during a blowout 35-7 win over the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers.
Enlarge / The San Francisco 49ers’ star quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates during a blowout 35-7 win over the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers.

Getty Images/Thearon W. Henderson

Hey, football fans! You’re already watching the NFL on CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, ESPN, ESPN Plus, Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, NFL Network, and YouTube TV, right? Well, get ready for one more: Netflix! The biggest streaming provider that wasn’t showing NFL games is now jumping into the pile. The NFL and Netflix have signed a three-year deal that will put exclusive Christmas games on the streaming service.

The first Netflix Christmas games will be this season, on December 25, 2024, (that’s a Wednesday, by the way). Netflix will get two Christmas games this year, with exact times and teams to be announced later tonight at the NFL’s live schedule unveiling extravaganza (even the schedule is an event now). The NFL says 2025 and 2026 will see “at least one” game on the service each Christmas. The exact terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In the quickly changing landscape of TV, the NFL has long been one of the few things left that is still appointment television. Of the top 100 highest-rated US TV broadcasts in 2023, 93 percent of them were NFL games. In the hyper-fragmented world of streaming, landing a few exclusive NFL games is a great way to hook people into your service. NBC’s exclusive Peacock playoff game brought in 23 million viewers last year. And even if that was a bit low by NFL standards, NBC called it “the most streamed event ever in US history” and “a milestone moment in media and sports history.” You might think NFL fans would immediately cancel after the final kneel-down, but one study showed a shocking 71 percent of users that signed up for the NFL game were still on Peacock seven weeks later.

Netflix has been dipping its toe into the NFL content stream with special reality-style documentaries like Quarterback and the upcoming Receiver, which star current NFL players, but this will be the first time the streamer will air live football. With NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube TV and Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime, the NFL is moving online more than ever. In a few years, things will get even wilder: In 2029, the NFL can cancel all the TV deals at the same time if it wants. That would lead to an unprecedented bidding war among all the TV and streaming providers and would upend the entire NFL content world.

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