NFL's media chief sees Amazon, other streamers bringing a new level of interaction to games

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NFL executive Brian Rolapp told CNBC on Friday the league’s new blockbuster media deal offers a chance to enhance the viewing experience for fans through digital streaming.

The broadcast pact features Amazon Prime Video as the exclusive provider of Thursday Night Football games beginning in 2023, the first all-digital package in the league’s history. Four other media-rights holders — ViacomCBSFox, NBCUniversal-parent Comcast and ESPN-owner Disney — all have the ability to broadcast their respective games on their various streaming platforms.

“I think the [streaming] experiences will be different,” Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer, said on “Squawk Alley.” “What they will be, I think, remains to be seen, but the underlying rights of these deals provide for that type of innovation, which I think we’re excited to see and was really part of these discussions. Nobody just wanted to be put television on the internet.”

ViacomCBS’s slate of games can air on Paramount+, while NBC can use its Peacock service to stream its contests. Fox’s agreement permits it to show NFL content on Tubi, its ad-supported streaming platform. Disney, which also obtained rights to broadcast two Super Bowls on ABC, will be able to simulcast its games on ESPN+.

“I think with these partners, you’ll see them take advantage of all the different things that a digital technology allows you do,” Rolapp said. “There could be developed interactive features. It clearly can change advertising, because once you have a digital platform, the targeting and the interactivity of that advertising can certainly change, something you can’t get on television.”

Rolapp said the agreement — which CNBC estimates could be worth more than $100 billion —does not spell the end of linear TV just because digital takes a bigger focus. “If you look at this contract, I think we’ve allocated all of our games to television distribution in some shape or form,” he said, noting Amazon’s Thursday contests will still air on TV in the local markets of the teams playing.

“I think streaming will certainly provide reach as people spend more and more time time on digital. But if we’re getting to the end of these deals and all we’re doing is putting television on the internet, I think we’ve missed an opportunity,” Rolapp said, regarding the new media agreements that start in 2023 and extend through the 2033 season.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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