Netflix will carry two exclusive NFL Christmas games in 2024

Netflix has acquired the exclusive rights to two NFL Christmas games, the streamer’s most aggressive move yet into live sports.

The company announced Wednesday ahead of its advertiser presentation in New York that it would be the global home of the league’s two Dec. 25 football contests. The games fall on a Wednesday this year.

Netflix said it will carry at least one NFL Christmas game in 2025 and 2026 as well, as part of a three-year agreement with the league.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but reports have put the rights fee at $150 million for the two games.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be the first professional sports league to partner with Netflix to bring these live games to fans around the world,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president of media distribution.

The NFL’s current TV partners, which are paying a total of $11 billion in annual rights fees, were asked to bid on the games, according to two people familiar with the talks who were not authorized to comment.

The fact that the NFL could extract two games from its existing packages — and ask its media partners to pay for them again because they will run on a holiday outside the usual windows of Thursday, Sunday and Monday night — demonstrates the league’s clout. The ratings for NFL games tower over everything else in television.

The games will be used to expand the streamer’s live event programming strategy, which is becoming a tool to keep subscribers more engaged as well as attracting new ones.

“In a world of audience fragmentation and so many entertainment choices, what’s really rare are three things — attention, the ability to bring mass audiences together and really passionate viewing,” Spencer Wang, a Netflix vice president, said Wednesday at an investor conference.

Earlier this year, Netflix said it would become the home for WWE “Raw” starting in January 2025 and announced that it would host live boxing matches, including one with YouTuber and professional boxer Jake Paul and Mike Tyson in July. Other live sports events streamed on Netflix include a tennis exhibition match and a golf tournament.

The NFL will also be a valuable tool for Netflix as it moves into the TV advertising marketplace. As the streaming business matures and can no longer depend on significant growth from adding subscribers, companies have turned to selling commercials on lower-priced tiers.

Netflix is still in the nascent stage of selling commercials on its programming. The number of U.S. subscribers who’ve signed up for the ad tier is estimated to be fewer than 10 million, according to buyers who have done business with the company.

(Neflix has only disclosed the worldwide total of monthly active users for its ad tier, which is 40 million. The company said 40% of all new subscribers are opting for the ad-supported version.)

The NFL Christmas games will carry commercials for all subscribers even if they are signed up for the ad-free service, according to Netflix co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos, who was in New York for the company’s advertiser presentation Wednesday.

The Christmas games are the second NFL package to go to a streamer. Amazon‘s Prime Video has the rights to “Thursday Night Football.”

NBCUniversal, which has “Sunday Night Football” rights for broadcast network NBC, put one of last season’s playoff games on its streaming service Peacock. The company, which paid $100 million for the rights to the the game, said it was the most streamed event in history.

The NFL has maintained that it is committed to getting the broadest reach for its games, the bulk of which remain on broadcast TV. (Netflix’s NFL Christmas games — the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens against the Houston Texas — will be available on TV in their local markets).

But the league is aware that most younger viewers have passed on subscribing to pay TV bundles and get their video content online and a la carte. The league has said having its telecast on streaming outlets is necessary to develop future generations of fans.

Netflix said that the median age of its subscriber base is 37 and that 60% are cord-cutters. The median age of NFL viewers watching on traditional TV was 54 in 2022.

Sarandos said it has not yet been determined who will produce Netflix’s NFL games. Amazon uses the resources of NBC Sports for “Thursday Night Football.”

Times staff writer Wendy Lee contributed to this report.

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