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NFL, Verizon Set Massive $2 Billion Five-Year Streaming Deal

Telco gains expanded mobile rights for live NFL games; will no longer be exclusive U.S. wireless carrier for pro football

Verizon will no longer be the exclusive U.S. mobile carrier for NFL games — instead, the telco is gaining rights to live-stream gridiron action to any mobile device nationwide under a new five-year pact with the league.

Verizon will pay the NFL more than $2 billion under the new deal, the Wall Street Journal reported; Reuters pegged it at around $2.25 billion over the five-year period, citing an anonymous source. The renewed and expanded pact will run through the 2022-23 season. Under the prior deal, Verizon has paid around $250 million per year ($1 billion total over the four-year span).

The new Verizon-NFL deal covers all in-market and national games, including preseason, regular season, and playoff games — including the Super Bowl — available to anyone in the U.S., on any mobile carrier or network provider. The package includes live-streaming rights to the NFL’s Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night Football games, and the Sunday day games that air on TV in viewers’ local market.

Verizon’s rights extend to mobile phones across all carriers and across Oath properties, including Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, AOL, and Go90. According to the company, its mobile and digital properties reach more than 200 million monthly unique users in the U.S. The new NFL deal also grants Verizon rights to sell select in-game ad inventory on its platforms.

Essentially, Verizon is getting U.S. mobile live-streaming rights to the entire NFL schedule — with the exception of Sunday afternoon out-of-market games. Those remain with AT&T’s DirecTV, which has locked up the NFL Sunday Ticket package through the end of the 2022-23 season.

“We’re making a commitment to fans for Verizon’s family of media properties to become the mobile destination for live sports,” Lowell McAdam, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, said in a statement. “The NFL is a great partner for us and we are excited to take its premier content across a massive mobile scale so viewers can enjoy live football and other original NFL content where and how they want it.”

TV broadcast rights, however, are still where the NFL makes its mint. The league rakes in an estimated $7 billion per year from TV deals, including with CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN, representing about half its overall revenue.

The full extent of the new Verizon-NFL deal won’t go into effect until the 2018-19 season, but certain elements will roll out this postseason. Specifically, NFL postseason games will be available on Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, and Go90 (along with the NFL Mobile app) beginning no later than the conference championships on Jan. 21.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a statement, praised Verizon as a partner and emphasized that the deal will extend the league’s games to any mobile device “regardless of carrier.” Verizon has carried NFL games on mobile since 2010.

In addition to the expanded availability of live games, the new NFL-Verizon agreement encompasses mobile access to NFL highlights, coverage of NFL throughout the week and year, and a set of jointly developed original content (like virtual-reality experiences). Verizon has global distribution rights to the on-demand content, while the live games are U.S.-only.

Under the pact, Verizon also will continue to be the official wireless sponsor of the NFL while the telco’s media brands like Yahoo will become official NFL sponsor brands as well. Also, starting with the 2018 NFL season, Verizon will become the presenting sponsor of the Pro Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.

Verizon formed the Oath digital-media group this summer, combining AOL and Yahoo under one umbrella, after closing the $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo in June 2017.

The NFL has divvied up the rights to its crown jewels — the live games — across TV and digital partners for the last several years. This past season, it granted Amazon worldwide streaming rights to the 11-game “Thursday Night Football” lineup for a reported $50 million (after Twitter had “TNF” in 2016). And Verizon paid the league around $20 million to live-stream a single regular-season game (the Sept. 24 Ravens-Jaguars meeting in London), paying a premium because it wasn’t broadcast nationally in the U.S.

Verizon’s $2 billion NFL rights deal comes as tech players including Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter are looking to spend big bucks to bring more sports to their digital services. Facebook is said to be particularly aggressive: The social giant is seeking to hire an exec who will have a budget of a “few billion dollars” for sports-rights deals, Sports Business Journal reported last month.

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