The NFL and Verizon have signed a five-year deal that will see the wireless communications outfit stream in-market and national NFL games via digital and mobile platforms starting next month. Sources said that the media rights and sponsorship deal is worth an average of close to $500M per year, an increase that nearly doubles the $250M per year Verizon is paying as part of its current four-year deal. The biggest part of that increase comes from an increase in media-rights fees, rather than sponsorship revenue, a source said. The NFL has been courting digital media companies for years in the hopes that they will emerge as competitors to traditional TV networks for media rights. The size of Verizon’s increase could be a sign that digital media companies will be ready to make serious bids when the NFL’s media rights are up in ’21 and ’22. The NFL has been clear with its desire to expand the availability of live games on digital devices, and this deal furthers that initiative. Unlike the old deal, the new deal does not give Verizon mobile exclusivity -- fans will have access to the streams regardless of mobile network. This year’s playoffs, for example, will be available via the Verizon-owned Yahoo, Yahoo Sports and go90. The games and NFL programming also will be available via the NFL mobile app. As part of the deal, Verizon picked up rights to sell some in-game ad inventory on its platforms. The deal, which extends Verizon as an official sponsor of the league, also will include mobile access to highlights throughout the year and Verizon-produced shows. Verizon has been an NFL partner since ’10. Starting next season, it will be the presenting sponsor of the Pro Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine (Ourand & Kaplan, Staff Writers).
WANTING TO SPREAD THE WEALTH: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joe Flint reports Verizon will make national primetime games, as well as the playoffs and "Sunday afternoon games from a user's home market, available on its app for smartphones and tablets, regardless of a customer's mobile carrier." The partnership begins next month to coincide with the postseason. Verizon was willing to "give up exclusive mobile rights in return for NFL content for its other platforms." Exclusivity was seen as "crucial for Verizon to attract new wireless customers and keeping existing ones" with its previous deal. The company's focus now is on "building its other platforms, particularly since Verizon bought Yahoo earlier this year" (WSJ.com, 12/11). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "NFL games are going to be much more accessible on mobile devices. That's something that we think our fans will really enjoy. We see more and more of our fans moving to new devices -- particularly their phones -- to get content, and we are going to work together to not only stream games, but also bring other content across a number of great media properties.” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said this deal is the "first step for us on building this as a sports pillar of the company." He said Verizon is "going to be expanding" its relationships with other leagues, but the NFL "is our cornerstone partner" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 12/11).
HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD? YAHOO FINANCE's Daniel Roberts notes the deal for Verizon is a "big bet on a sport and a league that is No. 1 in the country but shows signs of wavering" (FINANCE.YAHOO.com, 12/11). Verizon Global Chief Media & Content Officer Brian Angiolet said that he had "no concerns doing this media deal" amid the NFL's linear TV ratings declines, because "mobile is experiencing an uptick." Angiolet: "The NFL generates the greatest audience in mobile in our experience. Not only has year-over-year mobile viewership been growing, but NFL mobile consumption has been growing too" (ESPN.com, 12/11). Front Office Sports tweeted several "takeaways" from the deal: "1. Verizon's purchase of Yahoo played a large factor in the company giving up its mobile exclusivity. 2. Cross-carrier deals are key. 3. The transition of Verizon from wireless company to media company" (TWITTER.com, 12/11).
The NFL's decision to keep Eagles-Rams as the featured game in the late window yesterday paid off for Fox, as the marquis matchup delivered Fox the best NFL overnight rating (16.0) this season to date. The previous high was in Week 2 for Cowboys-Broncos (15.9). The Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams was featured in 90% of Fox markets. That figure is up 2% from Seahawks-Packers in Week 14 last year. The NFL had also decided to flex Cowboys-Giants yesterday from that late national window to Fox' regional window, and that paid off as well. Fox drew a 10.4 overnight for the regional window at 1:00pm ET, marking its best regional window since Week 1 last season. It also was up 11% from a 9.4 in Week 14 last year. Meanwhile, Ravens-Steelers saw a sharp drop on NBC last night. The "SNF" matchup drew an 11.6 overnight, which is NBC's lowest figure for Week 14 since '08, when Redskins-Ravens drew a 9.3. Ravens-Steelers also is down 30% from Cowboys-Giants in Week 14 last year. Despite the drop, "SNF" still delivered NBC a primetime win among all networks. The game peaked early at a 12.0 rating from 9:30-10:00pm ET. Pittsburgh led all markets last night with a 44.4 local rating, which is NBC's best "SNF" figure involving a Steelers game since Week 17 in '14. Baltimore was the No. 2 market with a 30.8 local rating. CBS drew an 8.6 overnight for its singleheader window yesterday, which featured the cross-flexed Vikings-Panthers game in 40% of markets. Only 4% of CBS markets saw the snow-covered Colts-Bills game. The singleheader for CBS was down 24% from last year, as the net had three games in the 4:05pm window up against Fox' national window (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
NFL WEEK 14 SUNDAY OVERNIGHT RATINGS
STILL IN A GOOD PLACE: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this morning downplayed suggestions that the league has "reached an oversaturation point" regarding televised games despite ratings falling this season for the second straight year. He said, "We're conscious of that (perception) and we're going to make sure that when we do something, we do it well and we do it as an event." Goodell noted "TNF" this season is the No. 2 program "in all of entertainment" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 12/11).
NEED SOME RATINGS HELP: In Dallas, Barry Horn notes a couple of "identical double punctuated postgame tweets came from NBC and Fox" minutes after the Cowboys' 30-10 win over the Giants yesterday. The nets "remain gaga over the 7-6 Cowboys, who are still in the playoff hunt." The victory "keeps the Cowboys relevant" for their upcoming "SNF" game against the Raiders (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/11).
Fox Sports staff in L.A. is "bracing for a wave of possible budget cutbacks due to disappointing NFL advertising sales," according to sources cited by Michael McCarthy of SPORTING NEWS. Another factor is with the USMNT missing the '18 FIFA World Cup, Fox "can't count on soccer ad dollars next year to get well." The "high hopes Fox had for a World Cup advertising home run ... vanished" when the USMNT failed to qualify for the first time since '86. Sources said that Fox likely "will not send Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharpe and other FS1 stars on location in Minnesota" for Super Bowl LII, as NBC will televise the game. The move comes after Fox sent "all of its studio shows to Houston" last year for Super Bowl LI, which it broadcast. Nets often "adjust budgets based on rising/falling ad sales," but few people at Fox "expected a serious downturn from pro football." One bright spot for Fox has been the "advertising windfall" from both the Astros-Dodgers and Cubs-Indians World Series the last two years going a full seven games (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/11).
CBS on Saturday afternoon drew the best overnight rating for the Army-Navy football game in 23 years. Army's 14-13 win over Navy in the closing seconds drew a 5.9 overnight, which is the best for the annual matchup since ABC drew a 6.5 in '94. The 5.9 overnight also is up 5% from a 5.6 last year. The game has seen ratings rise for five straight years now. The move to have the game on the Saturday after conference championship weekend also continues to be a boon for ratings. Since that move in '09, the lowest rating for the game has been a 3.5 overnight ('10). From '00-08, when the game aired on conference championship weekend, only two games drew a 3.5 or above. The top market on Saturday for the game was host site Philadelphia with an 11.3 local rating. Rounding out the top five were Columbus (11.0), Jacksonville (10.9), Norfolk (10.6) and Baltimore (10.4). Meanwhile, the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday night drew a 1.5 overnight rating on ESPN, as the heavy favorite, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, took home the trophy. That figure marks the second straight year that ESPN has seen a record low for the Heisman telecast. The 1.5 this year is down 12% from a 1.7 last year for Louisville QB Lamar Jackson's win, and down 25% from a 2.0 rating in '15 and '14, when Alabama RB Derrick Henry and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota won, respectively (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
ARMY-NAVY FOOTBALL OVERNIGHTS TREND
HEISMAN CEREMONY OVERNIGHTS TREND
SENSITIVE TOPIC: THE ATHLETIC's John Walters noted on the eve of Army-Navy, The Daily Beast ran a piece in which former cadet Madeline Lewis "alleged that in her plebe year" of '14, Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw "raped her." The story, "strategically timed, put both ESPN, which aired 'College GameDay' from Philadelphia, and CBS, which aired the contest, in an awkward situation." Army-Navy is a "star-spangled tribute to the service academies, and here was the game’s most outstanding player ... being accused of sexual assault." ESPN's Rece Davis gets credit for "at least citing the story and, during the crew’s on-set interview with Army coach Jeff Monken, asking him to comment." Meanwhile, CBS "never touched the story." CBS’ intro for the game, featuring "properly proud parents of players from both service academies, was sensational." It was both "uplifting and humorous." Props to the team who "produced it and props to play-by-play man Brad Nessler who, at the start of the fourth quarter, mentioned the staffer in charge of its production by name" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/10).
SNY will cover this week’s MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as much as its linear channel. The use of digital media platforms, including the RSN’s website, will allow SNY to cover the meetings all day across many platforms, rather than breaking into linear TV coverage, which generally produces low viewership during the day. “This is indicative of what’s going to be more of our shift in strategy,” said SNY President Steve Raab. “We want to go to our fans wherever they are, and that’s social media during the day. Then we can push them toward linear content in the evening.” Raab said that the RSN used to break into programming on the linear network during the day as news would break, like a manager change or a player trade. “But our viewers didn’t think of our network that way,” Raab said. “During the day, they are more likely to see our content on social media than on our linear network.” SNY’s Winter Meetings coverage started last night with two shows on linear TV: “Mets Hot Stove” and “Geico SportsNite.” It produced “Metsblog Morning” that appeared on Facebook Live this morning, and has seven “360” updates available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Starting at 5:00pm ET, the RSN will cover the meetings through its linear TV channel via shows like “Daily News Live,” “Loud Mouths,” “Mets Hot Stove” and “Geico SportsNite.” SNY will use similar coverage schedules through Thursday. SNY will use on-site talent like Steve Gelbs, Andy Martino and Jim Duquette. Gary Apple, Nelson Figueroa and Todd Zeile will stay in studio in Manhattan. Raab said that SNY ratings historically have seen a ratings pop during the Winter Meetings, with his network’s MetsBlog showing a 60-100% increase during Winter Meetings over a typical winter week.