The NFL is in talks with media companies about selling shares in NFL Films, according to sources familiar with what transpired at last week’s annual owners meetings, The Athletic reported this week. The biggest company that stood out on this list of considerations was Netflix.
While Netflix has given no indication that it will be covering live sports anytime soon, it has ventured down the path of sports documentaries and reality programming. This includes titles such as “The Last Dance”, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”, as well as the upcoming PGA reality series.
“If you think about NFL Films… it’s a robust library with documentary power… You could watch ‘Hard Knocks’ and all that stuff that sells similarly to Formula One or PGA right on a Netflix service,” he said. a team official who was in the presentation room, shared by The Athletic. Netflix and the NFL have not responded to requests for comment.
Nowadays, there are no live games on Netflix, nor is there much sports content. This move could give the streaming service a place in the sports arena of the streaming world.
The league has also reportedly spoken with Amazon, Apple, ESPN, Paramount, Peacock, Roku, Fubu and DAZN regarding the NFL media process, which were represented in slideshows at the meeting. All of these media companies are familiar with live sports and the benefits behind it.
Ultimately, the process could result in a portion of NFL Films being sold separately from its long-marketed minority stake in NFL Media. Additionally, the NFL is apparently looking for a partner that can help distribute content.
There’s also the question of whether the league will include an equity stake in NFL Media or NFL Films in Sunday Ticket’s off-market package of games. Currently, Apple is considered the favorite for the participation of NFL Media, as well as Sunday Ticket. However, Amazon does have Thursday Night Football, so there’s a good chance it’ll be considered as well.
A decision is still some way off, as DirecTV’s deal for Sunday Tickets has another season left, and there is no deadline for the equity piece.
The NFL is known to handle a tough financial deal and has become accustomed to its partners paying a premium for the privilege of doing business with Big Shield. ESPN (ABC, ESPN+), Fox (Tubi), CBS (Paramount+), NBC (Peacock) and Amazon Prime Video (NFL Network) spent more than $2 billion each on streaming rights last year for NFL packages. The National Football League and sports leagues in general are a must for networks as it is a driver of advertising and promotion, let alone one of the biggest reasons audiences still turn to television, besides the news.
While that may fly with networks, the NFL is going to have to put in a little more effort with streamers.
Although Netflix may not have a problem with the high price, having spent $17 billion on content last year, the service has also made up for this by raising its prices. The company bumped up the standard plan to $15.49/mo (was $13.99), its basic plan to $9.99/mo (up from $8.99), and its 4K tier now costs $19.99/mo (in compared to $17.99 above). Will subscribers be able to pay for recently added NFL content from Netflix?
NFL Films, a company based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, was founded by Ed Sabol as Blair Motion Pictures in 1962. Sabol obtained the rights to film the 1962 NFL championship game and commissioner Pete Rozelle was sufficiently impressed enough to buy from the new producer a year later. His son, Steve Sabol, was in charge of the company until his death ten years ago.
Together, Sabol’s men revolutionized sports television, changing the way people view soccer as a sport. Cinematic slow-motion shots of players catching a soccer ball spiraling out of the air, coupled with dramatic narration, suspenseful music and a frenzied crowd, help add to the suspense in an already riveting sport.
Sports as an audio and visual art form was a foreign concept before NFL Films, which won more than 100 Emmys with the Sabols, who are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
NFL Films’ most popular documentary series is “Hard Knocks,” which shows an NFL team going to training camp before the next football season begins. Season 19 of “Hard Knocks” will debut in August 2022 and will feature the Detroit Lions.
While “Hard Knocks” may be produced by HBO, it’s not too far off to imagine Netflix having a similar royal-style show about the NFL. Of course, the service has “Last Chance U,” a slightly amateurish version that features college football teams following their dreams.
Netflix values a library of content differently than live rights, which it has no experience with at all. The service would pair nicely with NFL Films, which produces a variety of sports content, including NFL-focused commercials, feature films, TV shows, documentaries, as well as major events and award shows.
Unlike other NFL-specific properties like NFL Network (which is shrinking in reach) and NFL RedZone, which need a much more strategic fit for interested media and technology companies, the production company doesn’t necessarily need to have a partner that be Interested in the league.
Netflix is already becoming a broader entertainment hub with its video game venture, so adding more sports content to the mix would further aid its goal of reaching targeted audiences.