The NFL has extended one of its most lucrative partnerships, inking a 10-year deal with Verizon. The previous deal, which spanned sponsorship, mobile streaming and virtual reality content, was set to expire in 2023. Terms of the agreement were not announced.
Beginning as far back as 2010, Verizon began streaming NFL games for customers. As part of its last deal, announced in 2017, Verizon expanded access to all mobile viewers through its apps, including Yahoo Sports. At the time, mobile streaming was the most relevant element of the deal for most fans. “We’re making a commitment to fans for Verizon’s family of media properties to become the mobile destination for live sports,” Verizon chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said in a statement in 2017.
But since then, Verizon has pivoted its strategy, letting go of many of its media assets, including Yahoo and AOL, in a $5 billion sale earlier this year (Verizon kept a 10% stake in Yahoo.) The telecom giant has put a particular focus on its 5G technology, and that has carried over to its relationship with leagues. Verizon has now installed 5G service in 25 NFL stadiums, and has pledged to use the tech for everything from improving health and safety to optimizing game day procedures.
“The NFL has embraced innovation for decades to bring fans closer to the game, from instant replay technology to outfitting players with microphones,” Verizon CEO and chairman Hans Vestberg said in a statement Thursday. “As we embark on the next 10 years, our work with the NFL will continue to enhance and transform not only the fan experience, but also has the potential to improve player training and overall venue operations.”
In 2019, Verizon became the NFL’s official “5G innovation partner,” powering the interactive, multi-camera mobile viewing options and augmented reality experiences in the NFL app. As part of the new deal, Verizon will be the official 5G network of the league and an official technology partner. Both sides have their eyes on how faster connectivity could improve in-stadium as well as at-home experiences. This agreement focuses more on pioneering tech applications than it does on content.
“As we look to the next decade with our trusted partner, Verizon will help us capitalize on the promise of 5G technology, paving the way for the future of the game and delivering incredible experiences for millions of NFL fans,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
Last September, Verizon made a deal with the NHL to expand its 5G efforts, which followed a similar partnership with NASCAR. But none are as big as the NFL tie-up, which previously came with an annual fee of $500 million, roughly half what CBS pays the NFL for TV rights. Verizon has also been the presenting sponsor of the Pro Bowl and NFL Combine.
The deal renewal follows the NFL’s extension of its other media partnerships this year. Beginning in 2023, Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and Fox will collectively pay the NFL $8 billion annually until 2033 to broadcast games, with Amazon set to become the exclusive broadcaster of Thursday Night Football for more than $1 billion annually.
(This story has been updated with details of Verizon’s service in the third paragraph as well as quotes from Verizon CEO and chairman Hans Vestberg in the fourth paragraph and a comment from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the sixth paragraph.)