Netflix doubles down on its ‘big bet on live’ events with huge deal to air NFL Christmas Day games

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Netflix Inc. will air two National Football League games this Christmas Day, in the streaming TV giant’s latest push into live events.

The three-season pact will also see Netflix host at least one Christmas game in both 2025 and 2026, the league and the company announced on Wednesday.

“Last year, we decided to take a big bet on live — tapping into massive fandoms across comedy, reality TV, sports and more,” Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s chief content officer, said in a statement. “There are no live annual events, sports or otherwise, that compare with the audiences NFL football attracts.”

The agreement marks the first time Netflix has licensed the rights to one of the world’s premiere sports and the first time it will show live football, the most popular sport in the US. The company will pay about $150 million for the two games this year, according to people familiar with the deal who asked not to be identified because the terms are private. It will be a similar amount if the company gets two games next year.

The NFL plans to announce its 2024-25 schedule on Wednesday.

The streaming industry leader has been experimenting with live programming for the past year as a way to broaden the entertainment options for its customers and create appealing properties for advertisers. Sports is the most valuable live programming in the world.

Executives at Netflix like the idea of a Christmas Day event that could bring millions of viewers to the service all at once. No live event is a bigger draw for viewers or advertisers in the US than the NFL, which accounts for the majority of the most-watched live TV broadcasts in the country every year.

The announcement confirms Bloomberg’s earlier report that a deal was imminent. Boomer Esiason, who hosts a morning sports radio program on WFAN in New York, and John Ourand at Puck previously reported on some aspects of the deal.

Netflix will elaborate on its plans Wednesday in New York, when executives are scheduled to present the upcoming programming lineup to potential advertisers. The Los Gatos, California-based company has dabbled in live sports before. It plans to carry a boxing match between former champ Mike Tyson and YouTube star Jake Paul in July. In January, the company acquired the exclusive rights to Raw as well as other programming from World Wrestling Entertainment, marking the service’s biggest move to date into live events. 

Boosting ad sales is a key part of the company’s efforts to sustain the double-digit revenue growth that analysts expect through 2026. Netflix said earlier this year that more than 23 million people use its advertising-supported offering around the world.

On a conference call with investors in April, co-Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters described the ad business as “growing quite quickly” from a relatively small base. In the US, the company offers a $6.99-a-month subscription that carries ads. 

“It takes a while to grow that into the point where it’s material,” Peters said. “So we look forward to that increasing in ’25 and then increasing further ’26 and beyond.”Play Video

Because live sporting events have commercial breaks built into their broadcasts, Netflix will show advertising to all of its users in a given market — not just the those on a cheaper, ad-supported plan.

The NFL has an existing relationship with Netflix, which produced the series Quarterback that debuted last July. The sequel, called Receiver, will release in July. The league has been carving up its rights to create additional game packages for partners, streaming services in particular.

In March the league announced two other streaming exclusives. Comcast Corp.’s Peacock service will carry a Philadelphia Eagles game in Week 1 of the season from Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sept. 6. The opponent hasn’t been named. It also awarded a wildcard playoff game to Inc.’s Prime Video, which already shows Thursday Night Football.

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