Netflix will stream NFL games on Christmas Day

The Netflix logo is displayed in one of the streaming giant's Hollywood buildings in Los Angeles on July 12, 2023.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Netflix will stream National Football League games on Christmas Day for the next three years as the first real step toward live sports.

The streaming platform will show two games on Christmas Day this year, followed by at least one matchup in both 2025 and 2026, the league announced Wednesday. The games will remain available on broadcast TV in local team markets and on the NFL+ mobile app.

It is unclear how much Netflix paid for the rights to stream the games.

Netflix has attracted large audiences with sports programming, from the documentary “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” to the “Quarterback” series that follows NFL signal callers. While the company made big moves into live programming with a deal to stream the WWE's “Raw” and a boxing fight between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul, the company suggested it hadn't found a live sports rights strategy that worked.

“We have not seen a profit path in major sports rentals,” Netflix Co-Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos said in December 2022.

“We're not anti-sports, we're just pro-profit,” Sarandos said.

Now Netflix will stream games for the most-watched U.S. sports league, at a time when it is trying to boost profits by raising subscription prices, pushing users toward ad-tier memberships and cracking down on password sharing.

The games could give Netflix great appeal to advertisers. The three NFL games on Christmas Day averaged 28.68 million viewers last year, according to Sports Media Watch.

The streaming giant's forays into live events have not been without problems. The live reunion event for the hit reality TV show 'Love Is Blind' in April 2023 featured a technical bug that delayed the stream for over an hour, after which the show was no longer live.

The announcement comes as streamers across the industry are showing increasing interest in live sports programming, especially the NFL.

In January, NBCUniversal's Peacock showed an NFL Wild Card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, marking the first time a playoff game was broadcast exclusively on a streaming service. Amazon's Prime Video has already secured exclusive rights to an NFL playoff game next season.

Amazon also signed one media rights deal with the NFL in 2021, where it agreed to pay approximately $1 billion per year to have exclusive Thursday Night Football rights for 10 years starting with the 2023 season. The deal marked the first time a streaming service exclusively offered a full suite of games.

Netflix could also focus on basketball. CNBC reported last year that Netflix, along with Amazon, AppleYouTube TV and Comcast's NBCUniversal/Peacock have all had preliminary discussions with the National Basketball Association about possible interest in media rights once the league's deal with Walt Disney And Warner Bros. Discovery It will end after next season.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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