The San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Cardinals contest will be part of a Saturday tripleheader on the day after Christmas, with the NFL Network having exclusive broadcast rights to the day’s two other games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions will meet at 1PM ET and the Miami Dolphins will visit the Las Vegas Raiders at 8:15PM ET. The day’s middle game, at 4:30PM, will stream exclusively on Amazon as well as on its gaming-focused platform, Twitch.
Viewers can also stream the game on mobile devices through various NFL, 49ers, Cardinals and Yahoo Sports platforms.
The move is not the first streaming-centric one by the NFL. It had previously announced a wild card playoff game will be played in January, with NBCUniversal streaming platform Peacock having streaming rights and NBCU’s Telemundo controlling broadcast rights. The experiment follows similar ones by the league, which has put games on Twitter and Yahoo, sometimes on an exclusive basis.
Amazon has been established as a streaming partner for the NFL on Thursday nights, signing a multi-year agreement to complement Fox’s linear broadcasts. According to initial data, the streams have not yielded blockbuster numbers for Amazon, but as overall viewing continues to shift toward streaming, the NFL is increasingly interested in positioning itself accordingly.
Major rights deals with league broadcast partners are coming up for renewal in 2022 at a point when linear ratings continue to erode and tech giants like Google, Amazon and Apple continue to dominate the business landscape. Despite the scope and success of tech companies and their inroads in sports, most analysts expect incumbent rights holders to retain their rights, even at an expected hike in valuation.
Also on Monday, ABC and ESPN said their “Megacast” plan – a roadblock-style, multi-network broadcast pattern activated for the NFL Draft in the spring and Monday Night Football in September, would return for the NFL playoffs in January. A game in the wild-card round will be broadcast by Freeform, a move similar to one announced last spring by ViacomCBS to simulcast a playoff game on Nickelodeon along with CBS. In both cases, separate announcing teams will be deployed, with the Disney networks promising more details on the Freeform setup in the coming weeks.