Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
The NFL has reportedly sounded out an unlikely potential media partner: Netflix.
The streaming giant, which has largely avoided sports so far, is among the media companies that the NFL has spoken with as it seeks distribution and/or equity partners for its NFL Media division, according to The Athletic. Other firms reportedly listed during a slideshow presentation at last week’s annual NFL team owners’ meeting included Amazon, Apple, Paramount, ESPN and Peacock, among others.
NFL Media oversees properties like NFL Network, NFL.com, the RedZone channel and NFL Films. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the league was shopping minority stakes and seeking strategic partners for the media assets as it looks to expand the reach of its TV and online content. Sources with knowledge of the NFL’s thinking told dot.LA that the league wants to keep NFL Films separate from any equity transaction for its NFL Media properties, while still seeking a content partner for NFL Films’ treasure trove of documentaries and historical footage.
Representatives for both Netflix and the NFL declined requests for comment.
Deep-pocketed tech firms like Apple and Amazon—which have already made priceyforays into live sports—have been floated in reports as possible NFL Media partners. According to the Athletic, Apple is considered the frontrunner for both the NFL Media rights and NFL Sunday Ticket, the league’s out-of-market games package which has been on DirecTV since 1994.
Netflix, the market leader in streaming, has long expressed little interest in sports, citing the high costs of entry. Still, Netflix has found success with sports documentaries such as “The Last Dance,” about NBA legend Michael Jordan, and “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” revolving around the auto racing league. The Athletic report suggested Netflix’s background in nonfiction sports series would make the streamer a good fit for NFL Films.
The NFL’s shopping of its TV and digital assets comes after it has expanded its presence in Los Angeles, a media hub that’s home to its existing partners such as ESPN-owner Disney and Fox Sports. Last year, the league moved its West Coast headquarters from Culver City to a fancier site in Inglewood, in the shadow of SoFi Stadium. The NFL’s investment in LA was seen by some observers as a strategy to broaden its media footprint, bringing it in closer proximity to legacy media titans and streaming giants alike.
A deal with Netflix, if it occurred, would certainly expand the NFL’s reach—especially outside the U.S., where the league has tried to go international by taking games to Europe. Netflix’s 222 million global subscribers could go a long way toward helping the NFL achieve its goal of making American football more popular outside of America.
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