Netflix’s Game Plan for Winning Over NFL Audiences


Netflix is a little late to the NFL, live sports, and streaming platform combination, but that doesn’t mean we should count the world’s biggest streaming service out just yet.

For a long time, the Netflixes of the world gave us hope that we could indulge in a premium service without the aggravation of ill-timed adverts.

No more.

Those days are long behind us, especially with the advent of live sports coverage. Netflix is kicking things off with baby steps — only two scheduled games this season.

With success, that number is expected to grow.

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However, if you want to watch every NFL game on streaming platforms this season, you will have to pay north of $1,500 in subscription fees.

If Netflix wants a larger slice of the pie, it will have to woo fans with more than two games and many commercials.

NFL Logo for Super Bowl LVIII

Netflix Knows What You Want

Emotional resonance and extensive data mining have made Netflix the ultimate predictor of personalized content. It seems to know what you want to watch before you do.

However, if there’s one thing most people don’t want to watch, it’s commercials. Unfortunately, with live sports, commercials are just a part of the game.

Every football fan knows the feeling of high blood pressure, a six-minute drive down to the opponent’s ten-yard line, followed by a flag and a ridiculous 30-second commercial of a humpback whale splashing in the water.

Not to mention, it’s the hundredth go-round for that commercial throughout the game. Injury? Commercial. Flag? Commercial. Timeout? Commercial. A random moment in time? Commercial.

Ted Sarandos at 30th Annual SAG Awards

It’ll drive you up the wall if it doesn’t end with a chair through the TV screen. Here’s where Netflix’s spooky, prophetic personalization comes in.

Netflix typically tailors ads based on the genre of content consumption, when you use the app, the device you use the app on, and voluntary information (sex, birth date, etc.).

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Since the inception of the advert tier, Netflix has invested heavily in it. Now, there are more than 40 million global active users. Surprised? It seems commercials aren’t as dissuading a factor as most assume.

Of course, it’s the cheapest tier, and Netflix has so far avoided bombarding consumers with endless ads. Plus, knowing what consumers want certainly helps.

Mason Rudolph of the Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Cash Grab Benefits Netflix

The NFL currently has deals with seven streaming platforms, the most recent being the Netflix duo of Christmas games.

However, at the end of seven years (2028), the NFL is free to opt out of every one of its rights deals.

In short, the NFL has a lot of leverage regarding who it wants to sell rights to. It’s like transfer rules and NIL deals in college football — everything is entirely up for grabs.

This is even though the deals last through 2033.

Filled NFL Seats

Netflix can win over audiences by being one of the primary homes for NFL games and content, thanks to its prominence as the most prominent streaming provider with a ton of buying power.

In a potential bidding war for NFL rights, Netflix has the leverage other smaller platforms lack.

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With over 80 million active Netflix consumers in the US and Canada, it’s a no-brainer for the NFL.

Timing is Everything

Netflix benefits from nearly perfect timing, although it was not a strategic move so much as a lucky happenstance.

Super Bowl LVIII Crowded Stadium

The largest streaming platform spent billions on original programming for 2024, and CEO Ted Sarandos previously conveyed a lack of interest in live sports.

Linear programming has long dominated live sports for several reasons: Broadcasting and commercials go hand-in-hand, the NFL has long remained comfortable with linear TV deals, worry over ratings on streaming platforms, and the money.

But things are changing rapidly.

Satellite and cable lost well over six million consumers in 2023, with a third of that number jumping on the live-streaming platform bandwagon.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins

Cable and satellite prices have risen to excruciating levels.

Even though Netflix subscription prices are also rising, a $6.99/mo ad tier with a $70/mo internet package is more palatable than a $300/mo+ cable or satellite deal.

For just $300 per month, you get 200 channels with nothing entertaining, at least until the big game.

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You also pay for the privilege of renting and installing the cable box and internet box.

It also seems like major networks are constantly feuding with satellite and cable providers, leaving the consumer high and dry, with no access to the arguing network until a new deal is struck.

A simple internet package with Netflix eliminates all of that fuss.

Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills

Netflix is Doing Something Different with the Dreaded Advertisement

Live TV means commercials. We all know that. No sports fan appreciates them very much, either. If there were an option for fast-forwarding through commercials, everyone would do it without a second thought.

While most streaming platforms attempt to match advertisements with specific consumer targets, Netflix is spicing things up a bit, and there are already examples of this in its current live sports offerings.

Brands that sponsor live sports programs (such as the Netflix Cup in late 2023) produce targeted ads that are more likely to impact the sport’s fans.

Netflix is also taking an integrated approach to adverts, with Stranger Things’ Coca-Cola ads for “New Coke Limited Editions” being a prime example.

A 49ers Fan

It makes adverts more interesting and gives them more of a Super Bowl advert feel. The only time anyone looks forward to commercials is when the Super Bowl rolls around.

If that kind of attraction is applied to regular or playoff games, Netflix will have an interesting subscriber draw.

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A commercial directly related to the game you’re watching is easier to stomach than a cringe dog food ad in the middle of a tight game.

Ironically, Netflix didn’t necessarily want to join the live sports bandwagon, much less the NFL.

But it seems like the moon, sun, stars, and planets all aligned at the right moment for Netflix to take the plunge.

NFL Rookie Workout

Netflix’s timing, financials, unique approach to ads, and overall brand attraction should make things very interesting in the near and long term.

The audience is built-in, the advertising infrastructure is unique and present, and live sports programming is taking off as cable and satellite providers are cratering.

Is there a better time for Netflix, the king of streaming platforms, to win over NFL audiences?

If Netflix maximizes its many advantages, we could be looking at the NFL’s future primary home.

Thomas Godwin is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow him on X

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