The NFL and Pluto TV have reached a deal to launch the NFL Channel, a curated library offering, on the ad-supported streaming service.
Because Pluto is available free for consumers, much of the programming on its 150-plus networks approximates but does not duplicate what pay-TV subscribers get via the traditional bundle. That means the NFL Channel will not mirror the NFL Network, which has evolved into a well-distributed staple in the league’s media portfolio. Instead, according to the official launch release, the new initiative will be dedicated to “celebrating the NFL’s iconic and classic moments spanning over a decade of past seasons.”
Pluto, which was acquired last January by Viacom and now has 18 million monthly active users, offered the NFL an appealing way to broaden the audience for its in-house production arm’s offerings. Ross Ketover, senior executive of NFL Films, told Deadline in an interview that the channel has a “from the vault” feel that will draw from action through the 2018 season. Anyone looking for the latest on Antonio Brown’s helmet, Ezekiel Elliott’s contract or other burning league issues will need to look elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the channel injects the heaviest dose yet of a major pro sport into Pluto’s growing platform. With the league heavily promoting its 100th anniversary season in 2019, nostalgia will be a major lure for viewers. Past seasons of Hard Knocks, the NFL Films show whose current season airs on HBO, will be another key element of the NFL Channel, along with team-specific season recaps, replays of classic games and countdown shows.
“The addition of The NFL Channel on Pluto TV is a gift to our growing audience, a perfect addition to our burgeoning channel lineup and a testament to our love of the game,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP of Content Partnerships for Pluto TV.
Ketover said fans, especially in this centennial year, “will enjoy discovering shows they may have missed, or reliving those unforgettable games and moments that make the NFL special.”
While the NFL has been entrepreneurial in recent years, adding streams of Thursday night games on Twitter and Amazon and setting mobile streaming deals, its relationships with broadcast partners run deep. CBS, which will be airing its 60th season of NFL games this fall, is about to reunite with Viacom in a $30 billion, all-stock deal. Executives’ stated plan to commingle CBS and Viacom streaming assets in the years to come means the NFL Channel news could be the start of a longer drive toward the end zone.
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