As the NFL prepared to launch its newest streaming service, league executives considered several possible names. But one stuck out—largely because it followed the market precedent. Fans understood Apple TV+, ESPN+, and Paramount+. Now, there’s NFL+, too.
The league unveiled the product today, a $5-a-month offering that includes live game access on mobile devices as well as out-of-market preseason games and on-demand programming.
“Today marks an important day in the history of the National Football League with the launch of NFL+,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The passionate and dedicated football fans are the lifeblood of the NFL, and being able to reach and interact with them across multiple platforms is incredibly important to us.”
Additional content could be added to the service over time.
“Taking more of our content where we can and offering that directly to our fans is both something we see across the landscape, across media happening around us, and something we’ve been doing in different ways and forms over the last decade,” NFL Media COO Hans Schroeder said in an interview. “We think this is something that, as we build it, just gives us more options for the future with how we deploy our rights.”
The core of NFL+—live access to local and primetime games on mobile and tablet devices—was most recently free in the NFL app. Before that, it was exclusive to Verizon subscribers. Last season, Verizon changed its relationship with the league, signing a 10-year deal focused more on promoting its 5G capabilities than content plays.
“We were able to free up these mobile live game rights maybe earlier than we expected,” Schroeder said. “It became a natural opportunity for us to think about what is that next step in direct-to-consumer.”
Alongside NFL+ the league will offer NFL+ Premium, a package that largely replaces the company’s Game Pass product. The premium tier comes with full-game replays (including condensed games and coach’s film versions). While Game Pass was previously sold for $100 a year, NFL+ Premium is available at $10 a month or $80 annually.
“We’ve seen remarkable growth over the last few years with (Game Pass),” Schroeder said. “And we think those fans and those subscribers to that product are going to like NFL+ Premium even more.”
For now, mobile access to NFL RedZone will still be sold separately. Across devices, fans will be able to access live games via cable authentication, just as they do now. League execs therefore expect NFL+ to be complementary to—rather than cannibalistic of—existing partners’ distribution plans.
Those partners are also increasingly leaning on football to grow their own subscription services. Following last year’s media rights deals, both ESPN+ and Peacock are set to stream exclusive NFL action.
Meanwhile, bidding continues for the NFL’s out-of-market rights. Previously held by DirecTV, that package will soon move to “a streaming service,” Goodell told CNBC earlier this month.
Already, Schroeder said, the league has identified so-called “power users” who are watching an hour of football on their mobile devices a majority of weeks each season. “We know that that fan exists,” he said.
NFL+’s launch also comes after the league hired Goldman Sachs to help it explore potentially selling a piece of its media arm.
“We look forward to continuing to grow NFL+ and deepening our relationship with fans across all ages and demographics, providing them access to a tremendous amount of NFL content,” Goodell said in his statement, “including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games.”
–Additional reporting by Anthony Crupi.