Which Comes First? The Peacock Or The Egg?

In an advertising upfront week disrupted by writers’ strikes and the changing priorities of the presenting platforms, it was no surprise that sports took an atypically larger chunk of time and newsworthiness.  None of which was as significant as the news that broke shortly after NBC Universal’s week-opening presentation, as reported jointly by the league and their still-fledgling streaming platform:

Peacock will become the home to the first-ever exclusive live streamed NFL Playoff game, presenting an NFL Wild Card Playoff in prime time on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, it was announced…by NBCUniversal and the NFL.

The Peacock exclusive Wild Card game will immediately follow a late afternoon NFL Wild Card Playoff game on NBC and Peacock (4:30 p.m. ET on Sat. Jan. 13).

“We are thrilled to partner with the NFL on this industry milestone, bringing to Peacock the first ever exclusively live streamed NFL Playoff game,” said Pete Bevacqua, Chairman, NBC Sports. “As Peacock continues to grow, nothing says ‘must-have’ programming more than live NFL games. With the regular-season schedule revealed last week and today’s announcement, we can’t wait for the 2023 season to kick off.”

“We are excited to work with a great partner in Peacock to present the first-ever exclusively live streamed NFL playoff game this upcoming season,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Expanding the digital distribution of NFL content while maintaining wide reach for our games continues to be a key priority for the League, and bringing the excitement of an NFL playoff game exclusively to Peacock’s streaming platform is the next step in that strategy.”

For the chance to telecast this one game, it has been reported that Comcast will pay the league north of $100 million.  The average non-Super Bowl playoff game generates roughly $42 million in ad revenue, per a 2021 article authored by Andy Gibs of Standard Media Index.  The Peacock game will be directly compared to an NBC Saturday night prime time game from this past Janaury that pitted two modestly appealing teams, the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, and it delivered the lowest audience of any Super Wild Card weekend game, just over 20 million viewers.

But that was in a universe of nearly 300 million potential viewers.  Peacock reportedly has only 20 million subscribing households at the moment, which ostensibly translates to about 50-ish million potential viewers in its universe.  Assuming the game that Peacock winds up is at least as appealing as one between the second-smallest media market and a distant number two carpetbagger in the second-largest, NBCU could be putting as many as 17 million viewers at risk, which would thus translate to a potential $35 million revenue shortfall.  Not to mention an awful lot of bent out of shape millennials and Gen Zs who will have to answer the inevitable questions “WTF is a Peacock and where is my game?!?!”  from their disenfanchised older and less tech-savvy relatives and friends.

It has been no secret that the league, especially commissioner Roger Goodell, want to embrace and include streaming in their media mix.  And the NFL has wisely invited as many neophytes willing to pay their way in to their party.  Goodell made his own personal upfront appearance at the YouTube Brandcast presentation last night, an appearance that DEADLINE’s Dade Hayes reported indeed had a steep price tag:

Commissioner Roger Goodell made a rare appearance at a non-league media event Wednesday night, taking the stage at YouTube’s Brandcast to tout the strengthening ties between the NFL and the tech giant.

After nearly 30 years on DirecTV, NFL Sunday Ticket is moving to YouTube as a stand-alone package and an add-on to YouTube TV subscriptions. The seven-year rights deal cost YouTube and parent Google $2 billion.

The league will also be continuing its Thursday Night Football package with Amazon Prime and will also have one of its early Sunday morning London games on ESPN+.  Paramount+ will offer simulcasts of CBS’ NFL games, and its own NFL+ will stream the entire pre-season plus provide an online portal for cord-cutting HHs.  It has been reported by numerous sports media journalists that all of these platforms were offered this game, with Amazon all but assigned it, but revisited it at the last minute.  Peacock and Comcast eagerly jumped at the chance to carry it.

The reason why they would, and throw away millions of viewers is obvious: they want to use the NFL as a trojan horse to boot awareness, subscribers and potential long-term ad revebue.  Much of their initial ramping up in 2021 was as a result of their coverage of the Tokyo Olympics.  The Paris Games next summer will be featured prominently, with every medal event carried live, exclusively or otherwise.  If they are successful in increasing their base, and gain some needed competitive advantage over equally struggling arch-rivals like Paramount+ and MAX, the bet will arguably be worth it.

But as we’ve recently seen, a ratings or coverage bump from a one-time event is not necessarily guaranteed.  It is believed a substantial portion of the subscribers who joined Peacock during the Games have not stuck around.  With a likelihood of less scripted TV, as well as the presence of early feeds of the popular NBC late night variety and talk shows not a factor if they are not in production by January, there will not be a lot to keep the incremental Peacock audience in the cage for long.

And as CNN has learned, just as quickly as viewers will find you for something they want, they’ll leave even quicker once they’re done with you.  Within three days of Donald Trump’s controversial town hall, their primetime audience declined by nearly 90% and on that night was below Newsmax’s delivery.

But that’s how desperate things are in the streaming wars these days.  And I sure bet the Roberts family hopes that the Eagles might be in the mix for that game, because they’d be able to offset even more shortfall with ISP revenue from those that need to get any or an upgrade to what they have to watch.

Once the arguments with their younger friends and relatives about WTF Peacock is, I suppose.


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