The NFL has embarked on an aggressive campaign to shift its TV viewing audience into streaming.
But currently, seven media and tech companies control OTT rights to NFL regular-season and playoff games, and there is simply no cheap solution for avid fans to be able to catch all or most of the games anymore.
A new analysis from London-based research company Omdia found that the cheapest bundle of streaming services needed to catch at least 95% of NFL games this upcoming season comes with a total consumer price of around $170 a month.
According to Omdia, to stream most NFL games, U.S. football fans would have to pay $449 for full-season access to the a la carte version of NFL Sunday Ticket, $139 annually for Amazon Prime and $10 a month for the standalone version of ESPN Plus.
NFL Sunday Ticket, which was just licensed away from DirecTV by YouTube at a price of around $2 billion a season, would provide access to all Sunday-afternoon out-of-market games. But it would not account for in-market games licensed to CBS, FOX and NBC. (Note: Football lovers might want to consider an over-the-air antenna here, which would take them up to nearly 100% of games.)
Also, ESPN+ won't deliver Monday night games presented only on ABC and not ESPN, and Peacock just locked up exclusive rights to a late-season and post-season Wild Card matchup. Fans would need to tack on an additional $4.99 for Peacock Premium to streaming those games.
Tacking on a sports-inclusive virtual pay TV service like YouTube TV or Fubo, meanwhile, would drive the price well beyond the $200-a-month range.
As Omdia notes, this is a meaningful consumer price issue, with 90% of U.S. sports fans (i.e. most of us) engaging on some level with the NFL.
Consider that 20 years ago, in 2003, the average price of a DirecTV subscription was around $64. That would deliver a fan access to most TV rights holders, which were mainly the four major broadcast companies at the time.
If a fan was on the avid side, DirecTV would license NFL Sunday Ticket to them at a price of around $50 a month. So, U.S. consumers could catch 100% of NFL games for around $114 a month.
Looking at it another way, the ~$170 minimum OTT price outlined by Omdia is 49.1% more expensive than that $114 price from 20 years ago, but inflation over this two-decade span is around 53.35%.
So the consumer pricing hasn't dramatically increased, but the distribution complexity certainly has.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!