The NFL is in talks with media companies to sell shares in NFL Films, The Athletic reported this week, according to people familiar with what happened at last week’s annual shareholders’ meetings. The biggest company on this list was Netflix.
While Netflix has given no indication that it will cover live sports anytime soon, it has gone the route of sports documentaries and reality TV programming. This includes titles such as The Last Dance, Formula 1 Ride to Survive, and an upcoming PGA reality show.
“When you think about NFL movies… it’s a powerful library of documentaries… you can watch Hard Knox on Netflix and all the same stuff as Formula 1 or PGA,” a team spokesman said. Presentation room provided by The Athletic. Netflix and the NFL did not respond to requests for comment.
There are currently no live games on Netflix and not much sports content. The move could bring the streaming service to the playing field in the live streaming world.
The league reportedly spoke to Amazon, Apple, ESPN, Paramount, Peacock, Roku, Fubu, and DAZN about the NFL’s media process, all of which were presented in slideshow form at the meeting. All of these media companies are familiar with live sports and their benefits.
This process could eventually lead to the sale of part of NFL Films separately from the longtime minority stake in NFL Media. In addition, the NFL is clearly looking for a partner who can help distribute the content.
It’s also questionable whether the league will include a stake in NFL Media or NFL Films in its off-market package of Sunday Ticket games. Apple is currently considered the leader in NFL media betting as well as Sunday ticketing. However, Amazon has football on Thursdays, so there’s a good chance it’s being considered too.
A decision is still a long way off as there is one more season in the DirecTV Sunday ticket deal and no deadline for the promotion yet.
The NFL is known for its tight financial terms and is accustomed to having its partners pay more for the privilege of doing business with the Big Shield. ESPN (ABC, ESPN+), Fox (Tubi), CBS (Paramount+), NBC (Peacock), and Amazon Prime Video (NFL Network) spent more than $2 billion last year on broadcast rights to NFL packages. The National Football League and sports leagues in general are essential to networking because they are the driving force behind advertising and promotion, which is the main reason why the public still watches TV and not the news.
While this may work online, the NFL will have to do a little bit with streamers.
While Netflix shouldn’t have a problem with the high price tag as it invested $17 billion in content last year, the service has also made up for it by raising prices. The company has raised the standard plan to $15.49/month (previously $13.99), the basic plan to $9.99/month (up from $8.99), and the 4K tier is now $19.99/month (up from with the previous $17.99). Will subscribers be able to afford Netflix’s new NFL content?
NFL Films, a Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based company, was founded in 1962 by Ed Sabol as Blair Motion Pictures. Sabol famously won the rights to film the 1962 NFL championship game, and Commissioner Pete Rogel was impressed enough to launch a new production company a year later. His son, Steve Sabol, ran the company until his death ten years earlier.
Together, the Sabol Men revolutionized sports television and changed how people view football as a sport. Cinematic slow-motion footage of players squeezing a helical soccer ball in the air, combined with dramatic storytelling, gripping music, and frenetic crowds, help heighten the tension in an already thrilling game.
Sports as a visual and audio art form was a foreign concept prior to NFL Films, winning over 100 Pro Football Hall of Fame Sabols Emmys.
NFL Films’ most popular documentary series is Hard Knox, which shows an NFL team going to training camp before the start of the upcoming football season. The Hard Knox season will begin on August 19, 2022 and will feature the Detroit Lions.
While Hard Knox may be produced by HBO, it’s not hard to imagine that Netflix has a similar NFL reality show. Of course, there’s Last Chance for You, the slightly amateur version that junior college football teams pursue for their dreams.
Netflix values a library of content other than direct rights, which it has absolutely no experience with. The service is suitable for NFL Films, which produces a wide range of sports content such as commercials, feature films, TV shows, documentaries, as well as major events and award ceremonies.
Unlike other NFL-specific properties, such as the NFL Network (with sagging coverage) and the NFL RedZone Channel—both of which require serious strategic adjustment for media and technology start-ups—the production company doesn’t need a partner to be involved. Interested in the Premier League.
Netflix is already growing into a major entertainment powerhouse with its video game business, so adding more sports content to the mix will further boost its goal of reaching a niche audience.