Photographer: Richard Sheinwald/Bloomberg

Verizon, NFL Are Close to Announcing Digital Streaming Deal

Corrected
  • Wireless customers can watch games on computers, tablets
  • Verizon is said to lose exclusive rights for games on mobile

Verizon Communications Inc. is close to a new deal with the National Football League for digital streaming rights that would give the largest U.S. wireless carrier the ability to deliver game broadcasts to computers, tablets and phones, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal expands on Verizon’s previous contract, which limited the carrier to streaming on screens 7 inches or smaller -- basically just phones. With the new agreement, Verizon will be able to give subscribers access to games on such devices, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Verizon will lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices, two of the people said. That means cable and satellite companies, and streaming providers like DirecTV Now and Sling TV, may be able to offer their customers streaming games on their phones through their own apps.

An announcement is expected after all the related parties are informed. Financial details and the duration of Verizon’s contract with the NFL couldn’t immediately be learned. Verizon’s rights will include the NFL’s Thursday night games, among others, one of the people said. Verizon’s FiOS TV customers already have access to the games on their screens at home because their channel lineups include networks like ESPN and NBC.

The NFL has splintered its broadcasting rights among several parties, including online. Verizon currently has mobile streaming rights to Sunday day games in a team’s home market, along with games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV has exclusive rights to out-of-market games during the day on Sunday, including on mobile devices.

Most-Watched Shows

NFL games are consistently among the most-watched TV shows in the country, giving Verizon another source of compelling programming as it builds an online video and advertising strategy. After looking at potential acquisitions like Charter Communications Inc., Verizon Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam told investors at a conference in September that the company had “moved on” from large M&A deals. The company was among those to look at assets owned by 21st Century Fox Inc., though its interest is mild, a person familiar with the matter said this week.

Instead, McAdam has focused on building a web-based media venture called Oath that combines the AOL and Yahoo! properties. During the September presentation McAdam said he expected to announce a big content agreement. Rather than seeking to own media companies, Verizon hopes exclusive deals like those with the NFL and the National Basketball Association will help build an audience to prime the pump for advertising revenue.

For the NFL, the deal gives the league another big outlet for games as ratings slump on traditional television. The NFL and Yahoo have been experimenting with streaming for the past two years with enough success that Verizon pushed ahead with a wider deal.

While the deal has been in the works for months, McAdam was asked by Citigroup analyst Mike Rollins this week about the status of the deal and the CEO confirmed it was with the NFL and had been signed, but offered no further details.

(Corrects devices able to stream games in paragraphs 1 and 2.)
    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE