Verizon Communications Inc. is dropping the $5 monthly fee to stream National Football League games for subscribers on its shared-data plans, as wireless companies maneuver to attract and keep big-spending customers.
Verizon’s exclusive NFL Mobile service offers live streaming games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday nights and now also includes Sunday afternoon games in local markets, according to the company’s announcement today. The service will be free for the 2014-2015 football season for Verizon’s More Everything customers, who can share data plans and get unlimited texts and minutes.
The move highlights how important sports programming, especially football, has become for service providers that are racing to win customers by delivering popular content to any device. Sports has helped propel consolidation across the media and telecommunications industries this year and is one of the linchpins of AT&T Inc.’s $45.8 billion proposed purchase of DirecTV. That deal hinges on DirecTV’s ability to renew its rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, its live-game broadcasts.
Sports has become a key feature as both Verizon and AT&T vie with smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc. To prevent losing their highest-paying customers, AT&T and Verizon have adopted some of T-Mobile’s more popular offerings such as phone financing.
Verizon’s More Everything plans start at $95 a month, or $75 for customers that pay full price for their phones. Streaming the NFL games will add to data charges, helping Verizon recoup some of the lost monthly fees.