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ESPN, NBC Nab NFL Mobile-Streaming Games After Verizon Loses Exclusive Rights

ESPN and NBCUniversal have extended their media-rights deals with the NFL to include live-streaming games on mobile devices — deals that come after Verizon struck a new digital pact with the league relinquishing its status as the exclusive mobile home for NFL games in the U.S.

No word yet from CBS and Fox, the NFL’s two other U.S. broadcast partners, about whether they’ve also landed mobile rights.

Verizon has streamed NFL games on mobile since 2010, available exclusively to Verizon Wireless subscribers. That’s ending with Verizon’s major new five-year deal with the league worth more than $2 billion that gives the telco non-exclusive multiplatform rights for all national out-of-market games, including the Super Bowl (and which includes Verizon continuing as official wireless sponsor of the NFL).

ESPN on Wednesday announced that it reached an agreement with the NFL that expands its live streaming of “Monday Night Football” for ESPN subscribers to mobile phones. The expanded mobile rights also include highlights and extend through the duration of ESPN’s existing NFL pact (at the conclusion of the 2021 NFL season).

ESPN’s mobile-phone rights from begin with the upcoming NFL Wild Card weekend (Jan. 6-7, 2018) and Pro Bowl (Jan. 29). Under the new deal, the sports programmer can stream “MNF” and NFL highlights on an authenticated basis on ESPN-branded digital properties across all devices and platforms.

The announcement comes after NBCU on Monday said it had acquired rights from the NFL to stream “Sunday Night Football” through NBC’s TV Everywhere offering for pay-TV subscribers on all mobile devices beginning with the 2018 season. The agreement also allows for NBCU to extend those authenticated streaming rights to its cable, satellite and telco partners, as well as virtual pay-TV providers.

Although NBC Sports Digital has been streaming “Sunday Night Football” to desktops, tablets, and connected TVs for several years, the 2018 season will mark the first time it will have rights to stream to mobile phones. As part of the expanded distribution deal, NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” mobile stream on NBCU’s own properties will include national advertising and local affiliate advertising for the first time. The reach of national ads, which will continue to be sold exclusively by NBCU, will be further extended by passing through to Verizon and NFL Mobile platforms, per Verizon’s agreement with the NFL that was announced last week.

NBCU is the only media company with two NFL primetime packages as it currently broadcasts and streams “Sunday Night Football” and five “Thursday Night Football” games, as well as preseason and postseason games. On Feb. 4, 2018, NBC Sports will broadcast and stream Super Bowl LII.

ESPN, for its part, already had rights to stream its many NFL-branded studio shows — including “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “Monday Night Countdown” and “NFL Live” — across all devices including computers, phones, tablets, connected TVs and over-the-top streaming devices (including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Google Chromecast). Until now, “MNF” streaming included those platforms with the exception of mobile phones.

“Every day, tens of millions of fans turn to ESPN to stream events, view highlights and connect with the latest sports news and stories, so we’re thrilled that they will now be able to enjoy ‘Monday Night Football’ and the latest NFL highlights as part of their experience on mobile phones as well,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s EVP of programming and scheduling.

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