For generations, the marriage of sports and media has helped define emerging distribution platforms. The long, slow hum of baseball made it a natural for the rise of radio in the U.S. football, whose line of scrimmage could easily be encapsulated in one moving image, was perfect for television. Its stop and start pace was also a great fit for advertising.
NFL games have dominated TV ever since, commanding a startling 82 of the 100 highest-rated linear shows in 2022. (College football contests fared well in the top 100, too.) Now, after years of philosophizing, the sport is helping the industry evolve to its next frontier: streaming.
I’ve written in the past about the logic of streamers acquiring rights to niche and affinity-driven sports. WWE, for instance, is a key value add to Peacock because cord-cutting wrestling fans can’t find their sport (or whatever it is) anywhere else. Apple’s massive MLS package also makes sense as a bet that the growing American soccer market is underserved. Meanwhile, baseball remains largely a province of the decaying regional sports networks, but its migration to streaming is underway via weekly games on Apple TV+ and Peacock. NBA commissioner Adam Silver is expected to add at least one streamer partner to the league’s next media rights package.