Photographer: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Facebook Said to Back Off Bid to Stream NFL Thursday Games

  • Social media company turned off by commercials, London games
  • League is still shopping digital rights to other bidders

Less than a month after Facebook Inc. confirmed its interest in live-streaming the National Football League next season, the social media giant has withdrawn from the bidding for Thursday games, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

While a deal to stream the most-watched American sport on the most-popular social network has obvious appeal, Facebook likes its live videos to be commercial-free and balked at the NFL’s traditional advertising model, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Early morning London games that come with the deal were also a turn-off, according to the person.

The NFL is still shopping digital rights for its Thursday night games. Verizon Communications Inc., which already streams games to its wireless customers’ smartphones, Yahoo! Inc., which has streamed London games, and Amazon.com Inc. are considered contenders for the rights. 

Facebook spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz and NFL spokesman Alex Riethmiller declined to comment. Yahoo and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Aware that a growing number of households are comfortable streaming video over the Internet, the NFL has used this recent round of negotiations for Thursday night games to aggressively court technology and telecommunications companies eager to serve so-called cord-cutters, as former cable-TV subscribers are known.

Football doesn’t come cheap. The league commands the highest per-game price for any sport on American TV. In the most recent broadcast deal, CBS Corp. and Comcast Corp.’s NBC each paid about $45 million a game for five Thursday night contests for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Yahoo paid $17 million to stream the 2015 London game, which was played at 9:30 a.m. New York time and broadcast on network TV in the teams’ home markets.

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