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Peacock’s Pyrrhic NFL Victory

Taylor Swift celebrates with fans during the AFC Wild Card Playoffs between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 13, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri.
NBCUniversal streamed last Saturday's NFL wild card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins exclusively on Peacock, forcing fans of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift—and Mahomes and Tua and Andy Reid’s frozen mustache—to shell out an extra $5.99 a month Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Julia Alexander
January 16, 2024

As we all know, the most whiplash-inducing pivot in media history is currently playing out: After years of inactivity, legacy TV giants are steadfastly trying to nudge their audiences onto streaming platforms—without pissing them off or atrophying their still-profitable linear businesses. It’s a nearly impossible feat, but NBCUniversal gave it the ol’ college try last weekend by streaming the NFL wild card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins exclusively on Peacock, forcing fans of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift—and Mahomes and Tua and Andy Reid’s frozen mustache—to shell out an extra $5.99 a month. 

Of course, the NFL has been streaming-curious for a few years now. Amazon has had Thursday Night Football for two years, and even promiscuously broadcast the league’s first “Black Friday” affair, which doubled as an ersatz shopping experience. The specter of a streaming-only playoff contest, for which NBCU paid a reported $110 million to broadcast, seemed like the natural next step for both the league and its broadcast partner. And the decision to put Chiefs-Dolphins on Peacock rather than the less enticing Browns-Texans seemed like an indication that both the league and NBCU weren’t screwing around. They were intent on running an experiment with their best product.