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Netflix, NFL to stack Christmas Day football streaming under your tree

Deal announced for 3 years of coverage, including 2 games this upcoming season
FILE - The Netflix logo is shown in this photo from the company’s website, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023. Netflix reports their earnings on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Netflix and the NFL announced a three-year deal Wednesday to stream games on Christmas Day.

The streaming giant will carry two games this year and at least one game in 2025 and ‘26. Defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City will face Pittsburgh in the first game, followed by Baltimore at Houston.

The NFL has played a total of 30 games on Christmas Day since 1971, including three last year. It has stayed away from midweek games, though, until this year’s Christmas slate.

Hans Schroeder, the executive vice president of NFL Media, said team owners meeting in March were presented with a plan where teams playing on Christmas Day would have their Week 16 games on Saturday, which would give them the same amount of prep time they normally have in a short week when playing on Sunday and Thursday.

After owners gave the go-ahead to proceed, Netflix approached the league about airing the games.

“We had a broad process and talked to a number of potential parties and ultimately thought Netflix was the one,” Schroeder said. “This is really the first truly global rights deal with a major sports league or property. We’re going to learn a lot and excited for our fans around the world to enjoy the games on a single platform.”

Netflix began airing NFL programming last year with the series “Quarterback.” A series on wide receivers will premiere this year. It also live streamed the Tom Brady roast on May 5 and will have a 10-part documentary series later this year on Jerry Jones and his ownership of the Dallas Cowboys.

Netflix’s forays into carrying live sports began last year, but they were exhibition events in golf and tennis. It is also scheduled to air the July 20 bout between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul and next year will start carrying World Wrestling Entertainment’s flagship show, “Raw.”

“People love football and we do, too. These games go with our big-event live strategy of all the live programming we have done in this last year — like The Tom Brady roast, the Netflix Slam and the upcoming Jake Paul vs Tyson boxing match. We’re excited about having the NFL conversation around Christmas Day,” Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s chief content officer, told The Associated Press.

Who Netflix will use to announce and produce the holiday doubleheader remains to be determined.

The bigger question is how the move from broadcast television to streaming will impact ratings as the Christmas games typically get large audiences. Last year’s three games averaged 28.68 million viewers. The early afternoon contest between the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs averaged 29.48 million.

CBS Sports CEO and president David Berson welcomed Netflix even if it meant his network not having a game on Christmas Day.

“Good for Netflix. The more interest for the NFL, the more we’re going to benefit,” Berson said. “We can’t possibly have all of the AFC games — we know some will go to NBC, ESPN, Amazon and in this case Netflix,” he said. “It’s great to have them part of this. Welcome to the party.”

Even though there have been some criticisms about more games moving to streaming, NFL fans have mostly stayed tuned in.

According to Nielsen figures, last season’s 16-game “Thursday Night Football” package on Prime Video averaged 11.86 million viewers, a 24% increase over 2023. Two games had more than 15 million viewers, including 15.3 million for the Nov. 30 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

The Jan. 13 AFC wild-card playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs on Peacock averaged 23 million, a record for the most-watched event on a streaming service. It also surpassed the audiences for the Saturday night wild-card playoff games that were shown on NBC in two of the past three years.

“We looked at all those elements and then looked at what the Netflix audience could do with its reach,” Schroeder said. “We want to continue to reach our fans on these new platforms and where we know they’re spending their time. And to bring in a new partner that can speak to an even wider audience is something we’re excited about.”

In keeping with the NFL’s longstanding policy on games that are carried on cable or streaming platforms, Netflix’s Christmas games will air on broadcast TV in the competing teams’ home cities and will be available on mobile devices in the U.S. with NFL+.

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