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NFL in Huddle With Tech Companies Over Streaming

By Donna Fuscaldo

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With the National Football League selling the streaming rights to its “Thursday Night Football” games for the 2017-18 season, a handful of technology heavy hitters including Facebook Inc. (FB), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), Twitter Inc. (TWTR) and Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOG) YouTube unit are battling it out for the rights.

According to a report in Recode, which cited two sources familiar with the process, all four tech companies have held talks with the NFL about streaming the pro football league’s Thursday night games. Last year, Twitter won the rights to stream 10 NFL games after agreeing to pay $10 million, which is a lot less than what television stations pay for the same rights. The report noted the NFL is expected to make a decision within a month and may provide an update next week at the NFL’s annual meeting, which is being held in Phoenix, Recode reported.

Tech Companies See a Lucrative Business

It’s not surprising that all four of the technology companies are making bids for the streaming rights given that live sports are a big business, with all of the companies inking streaming deals with all sorts of sports franchise. Take Facebook: Earlier this month it inked a deal with Major League Soccer and Univision in which Facebook will live stream regular-season games. The companies said 22 or more soccer matches will stream during the 2017 MLS regular season. Facebook is keen to include more live streaming of sporting events due to its popularity among its user base. Around 35% of its monthly users, which amounts to 650 million people, have one or more sports pages in their network, according to MarketWatch. Facebook is also in talks with Major League Baseball about live streaming games and has inked deals with the World Surf League and National Basketball Association’s minor league. Twitter followed suit, announcing this month a partnership with the National Lacrosse League in which it will broadcast one game a week during this year’s season as well as next year. (See also: Facebook May Sign Deal to Live Stream MLB.)

Facebook Could Be The Streaming Winner

According to Recode, Facebook is seen as the most likely winner for the streaming rights given that it has a bigger audience on a global scale than Twitter and isn’t dealing with slowing user growth and calls for the ouster of its CEO, as Twitter is. After all, in the year since Twitter and the NFL announced the deal, Twitter has looked to sell itself, laid off workers and saw key executives leave the social network. Recode noted NFL is “incredibly brand sensitive” and may not want to be associated with an embattled Twitter. (See also: Twitter: CEO Dorsey Facing Calls to Step Down.)

As for Amazon, Recode reported it offered more money last year to stream the NFL games, but concerns over its ability to sell ads for the games prompted NFL to go with Twitter. This time around, Amazon’s advertising business is growing and it created a sports group to help in landing streaming rights to live videos. The one drawback: Recode said Amazon wanted to offer the games to its Prime members, which could limit the distribution of the game, something NFL wouldn’t like. Any deal between Amazon and NFL would likely include showing the games beyond just Prime members, noted the report. Google’s YouTube has over a billion users, but a controversy over where advertisers’ ads are being placed could prompt NFL to stay away. In recent weeks, a handful of brands have pulled their advertising dollars from users after their ads showed up alongside offensive content.
This post originally appeared on Investopedia. Copyright 2017.

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