The NFL is not only the most popular sports league in the US, it is also the most valuable, with the highest-rated programming and most expensive advertising time.
In 2021, the league signed media deals worth an estimated $110 billion spanning 11 years, which was reportedly nearly double the value of its previous contracts.
“If you’re the most valuable content on those platforms, you’re going to be the biggest part of their investment. And that’s what we are,” said Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief business and media officer.
An average of nearly 18 million people tuned in to watch football games across television and digital platforms during the 2023 regular season, the highest number since 2015 and the second-highest ever, according to the NFL.
The pinnacle of the NFL’s popularity is the Super Bowl, the biggest television event of the year. Of the 30 most viewed broadcasts of all time in the US, 22 have been Super Bowl games, according to Nielsen.
The NFL’s move to ESPN in the late 1980s catapulted the rise of cable television. Now, its leap into streaming is having a ripple effect across the tech and media landscape.
“The media represents 60% of the NFL’s revenue,” said Robert Kraft, principal owner of the New England Patriots. “If we don’t stay fluid and in tune with the times, then we would have a real problem.”
With technological giants Alphabet and Amazonalong with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, acquiring the digital rights to NFL games and with the announcement this week that disneyIt’s ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery are launching a streaming service tailored to sports fans, it’s clear that streaming is poised to be the NFL’s next frontier, despite some negative fan reactions.
“You’ll see us continue to lean toward digital,” Rolapp told CNBC. “The trick will be to do it in a way that is fan-friendly and do it in a way that continues to bring as much football to as many people as possible.”
Watch the documentary to learn more about how streaming is transforming the NFL.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Peacock and CNBC