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Report: Paramount, Comcast have discussed combining streaming services

TV viewership has evolved from cable to steaming and, potentially, back to something that will look a lot like cable. And it could impact the manner in which the NFL does business.

During Super Bowl week, plans emerged of a meg-streaming service combining ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Paramount and Comcast has have discussions about combining Paramount+ and Peacock.

Per the report, the companies have talked about forming a partnership or joint venture that “could produce significant cost savings” while creating “a more in-depth offering for consumers, especially with regard to live sports.”

The NFL reportedly was “blindsided” by the Super Bowl-week news of the ESPN-Fox-Warner Bros. Discovery announcement, prompting the league to direct its lawyers to begin “scouring” broadcast deals for “loopholes.” As to a potential Paramount+/Peacock pairing, the NFL can’t claim it was caught flatfooted, if it happens.

As NFL broadcast partners join forces, the league’s massive leverage coming from a scarcity of its product could be eroded. However, as the world moves to streaming, there will be more potential customers, with the likes of Apple and Amazon and Netflix joining the fray.

The league also could begin to sell more packages, with alternative broadcasts no longer being subsumed within a network’s broader rights but part of a separate revenue stream. Via Nicky Wolcott of Sports Business Journal, NFL executive vice president for media distribution Hans Schroeder recently said that “alternative broadcasts could eventually be sold as a separate package of rights.”

It’s an endless dance between the NFL and the companies vying to televise, or to stream, NFL content. The league prefers having more suitors than packages, in order to keep the prices as high as they can be. And if the league can separately sell the rights to the various alternative broadcasts, the NFL can generate more and more revenue without increasing inventory.

Regardless of how things play out with the various companies that want to do business with the NFL, the fact remains that nothing gathers a massive live audience like pro football. As the audience continues to fracture, the league’s power to gather millions in the same place at the same time becomes more and more valuable to the companies that hold the rights — and thus more and more lucrative to the NFL.

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