NFL Teams up with Netflix to Broadcast Christmas Day Games Globally

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When the NFL’s broadcast planning vice president, Mike North, began early deliberations for the schedule of the 2024 regular-season, little did he think of including Christmas Day in it. However, the impressive viewership ratings and the enthusiasm shown by present and potential broadcast allies stirred a change of mind.

This occasion marks only the third time since 1950 the NFL is hosting a game on a Wednesday, but the twist in the tale is the inclusion of Netflix to broadcast the match. This surprise alliance comes as a part of a triennial deal announced last Wednesday while unveiling the annual schedule, where Netflix will globally stream two games on Christmas Day.

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Recalling last year’s strategy, North shared during a teleconference on Thursday, “We didn’t quite consider Wednesdays on Christmas. But the staggering viewership statistics from the previous year’s Christmas tripleheader, and one before that, indicate the fans’ and our broadcast partners’ growing appetite for holiday games.”

As per this new deal, Netflix will telecast two games this year and a minimum of one game in 2025 and 2026. The first game at 1 p.m. ET will feature Super Bowl champion Kansas City opposing Pittsburgh, followed by Baltimore locking horns with Houston at 4:30 p.m.

Christmas Day has seen the NFL feature a total of 30 games since 1971. However, midweek matches remained elusive until the announcement of this year’s Christmas lineup. The viewership statistics from last year’s tripleheader averaged 28.68 million, with the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs early afternoon contest drawing an average of 29.48 million viewers.

The tradition of Christmas Day games, having continued non-stop for the fifth year, is expected to endure. The years 2025 and 2026, where Christmas falls on a Thursday and Friday respectively, will see Netflix and Amazon each broadcasting one game with two games expected for Christmas 2026.

This Netflix partnership isn’t just about expanding audiences domestically but also compromises the NFL’s persistent attempt to foray into the international market, tethered with its commitment to hosting five overseas games this season. Boasting over 270 million paid memberships across 190 countries, the streaming giant was an irresistible choice for the NFL.

NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs, and policy, Jeff Miller was excited about the opportunity that NFL would get to expose its game to a global audience.

Presenting the plan to team owners during their March meeting, Hans Schroeder, the executive vice president of NFL Media, shared that teams playing on Christmas Day would have their Week 16 games on Saturday to afford them their customary prep time for the following week’s games.

The year of 2020 witnessed the last Wednesday game, when the Baltimore Ravens’ game at the Pittsburgh Steelers was delayed by six days due to COVID-19. In 2012, NFL chose a Wednesday to kickstart the season with a game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, to accommodate President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention scheduled for Thursday.

However, the latest December regular-season game before this year was on December 9th, 1925, when the Providence Steam Roller hosted the Chicago Bears.

Last year, Netflix began airing NFL programming, starting with the series “Quarterback,” and it live streamed the Tom Brady roast on May 5th of this year. Netflix is scheduled to continue this trend with a documentary series on Jerry Jones and his ownership of the Dallas Cowboys, a series on wide receivers, and its upcoming broadcast of the boxing bout between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul on July 20th.

Who Netflix will designate to announce and produce their holiday doubleheader remains a mystery as of now.

Regardless of the initial criticisms surrounding the increased games moving to streaming, NFL fans have continued to stay tuned in. Based on Nielsen figures, last season’s 16-game package of “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video averaged at 11.86 million viewers, a 24% increase from 2023—the highest being 15.3 million for the November 30 showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

Meanwhile, the AFC wild-card playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs on Peacock averaged 23 million viewers, setting a record for the most-watched event on a streaming service. It has also surpassed viewership ratings for Saturday night wild-card playoff games broadcast on NBC for two of the last three years.

Although CBS Sports CEO and President David Berson welcome Netflix on board, he reassured that his network will still have 29 windows, 10 doubleheaders, and Thanksgiving to air games, “We can’t possibly have all of the AFC games – we know some will go to NBC, ESPN, Amazon and in this case Netflix.”

In ensuring continuity of NFL’s longstanding policy, Netflix’s Christmas games will air on broadcast TV in competing teams’ home cities and will be available on mobile devices in the U.S. with NFL+.