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Volume 24 No. 176
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Verizon Extends NFL Media Rights, Sponsorship Deal For Another Five Years

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).