Cord-cutting might be gutting the profits from the cable industry as we speak, but there’s still one last big club that cable companies have to wield: sports. As we’ve covered before, watching major leagues like the NFL without a cable package is infuriatingly difficult, because major media companies — in the case of the NFL, NBC and CBS — own the broadcast rights, and dictate which channel a game will be on, and where.
But according to a new report from Multichannel, the NFL is soliciting new proposals for the Thursday Night Football package, and it’s seriously considering selling to a streaming company. That would mark the first time a streaming company has bought a major sports broadcast package out from under the cable companies, and perhaps the beginning of the end for cable sports exclusives.
“The NFL has asked media companies to bid on additional seasons of Thursday Night Football, and the league is indicating that if TV networks aren’t interested the package could go to a streaming company like Amazon,” Multichannel says. NBC and CBS currently pay the NFL $450 million for the broadcast portion of the rights.
Amazon is named as a likely partner since it already streams the Thursday Night Football games through Amazon Prime Video. But if Amazon buys the full broadcast rights, it would be a big shift in the balance of power, as it would be the first major sports engagement that could exclusively be streamed, rather than watching on cable.
Right now, sports is generally easy to watch on cable, and hard on streaming services. If the big streaming services start directly buying the rights to sports — rather than just paying media companies for the right to stream their cable channels — it could upset the entire distribution business.