For the first time in NFL history, the league will broadcast a postseason game exclusively on a streaming service. Saturday’s nightcap of the Super Wild Card Weekend doubleheader on the NBC platforms will be exclusively on the streaming service Peacock, not on free over-the-air television.
The Saturday night contest between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs will only be on Peacock, unless the viewer lives in the local television markets of the respective teams (the game will air free). For everyone else across the country, a Peacock subscription plans start at $5.99 per month.
The NFL tried to air a playoff game that wasn’t on free over-the-air broadcast television once, when the Carolina Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals in the opening game of the wild card round of the playoffs in January of 2015 (the first year of the new television contract). That game aired on ESPN exclusively, but that lasted only a year.
ESPN simulcast the game on ABC in subsequent years, thanks to the league having the lowest rated playoff game in six years. The league hasn’t had a playoff game omitted on broadcast television since, until Saturday’s Super Wild Card round game on Peacock.
So why is this game exclusively on a streaming service? NBC Universal paid the NFL $110 million last year for rights to carry a wild card game on Peacock — a one-year deal. This will be a trial for the league in its new television contract, which had exclusive games on streaming in the regular season (Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, international game on ESPN+, and Saturday night game on Peacock).
Live sports have been a huge part of Peacock’s growth, which is why NBCUniversal is banking on giving this game a one-year trial. There will be no free trials for Peacock.
Technically, three NFL playoff games are on Peacock this weekend. The Saturday 4:30 p.m. game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans, the Saturday 8 p.m. game between the Dolphins and Chiefs, and the Sunday 8 p.m. game between the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions — although two of those games are on broadcast network NBC and Peacock. CBS’ wild card game will stream on Paramount+ and air on CBS, same with ESPN’s game with ESPN+ and also airing on ESPN and ABC.
In the playoff television deal, NBC holds the rights to the Saturday afternoon game this year (this game annually rotates between CBS, Fox, and NBC). NBC has the rights to the Sunday night game (in year three of a seven-year contract), while CBS and Fox hold rights to the Sunday afternoon wild card games. ESPN is in the third year of a five-year deal with the league to broadcast a Monday night wild card game.
The Peacock game was not included in the package. That deal was made separately.
If subscriptions are high and the number of people watching is high (NBC said 5.7 million people turned into the December 23 Saturday night game exclusively on Peacock), there’s a good bet this playoff game goes to a streaming service again.