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CBS scores NFL digital streaming rights, a boon to its digital platform

John Harbaugh
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh reacts to a call on the field during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

CBS Corp. has secured rights for NFL football games for its streaming service, CBS All Access, providing a significant boost to the two-year-old subscription digital offering.

Until now, CBS had been forbidden from showing the NFL games that were broadcast by CBS television stations on the company’s $5.99-a-month All Access platform.

CBS and the league announced the multi-year deal on Thursday, but declined to say how much more money CBS agreed to pay for the streaming rights to the games. 

Already, CBS pays roughly $1.4 billion a year in TV licensing fees to the NFL, and the blackout of NFL football games on CBS’ digital platform was something of a sore point.


CBS, which has rights to Sunday action of the American Football Conference, had been angling for more than two years to gain the coveted NFL streaming rights for its next-generation service.

“We are very pleased that our partnership with the NFL has been expanded to include CBS All Access,” CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement. “Adding the most watched programming on television, to the most watched network on television, will be a powerful combination as we continue to grow CBS All Access into the future.”

The deal will allow CBS All Access subscribers to watch the CBS NFL games on tablets and through streaming devices such as Roku Players, Apple TV, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Google Chromecast. However, CBS subscribers still will not be able to watch their favorite teams on their mobile phones unless they have signed up for the NFL mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

Verizon separately pays about $250 million a year to the NFL for the exclusive phone streaming rights for its wireless customers.


“CBS has been one of our most trusted and valuable partners for over 50 years, and we’re happy to extend our relationship with them in new and exciting ways,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement. 

“Distribution of our games on CBS All Access is a win for the millions of NFL fans across the country, especially those looking to watch our games on these emerging digital platforms,” Goodell said.

Twitter this year won the streaming rights for 10 Thursday night games broadcast by CBS and NBC.  Twitter pays about $10 million for those rights.

“Though ratings at the NFL have been down modestly this year, it remains the most powerful franchise on TV,” Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris wrote in a report Thursday.

“We view adding NFL content to All Access as critical in achieving the company’s 10 million (combined All Access and Showtime) 2020 subscriber target,” Morris said. He noted the two CBS-owned streaming services each have about 1 million subscribers.

CBS shares closed down 15 cents, less than 1%, to $60.57.




2:15 p.m. This article was updated with commentary from an analyst and CBS’ closing stock price.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.


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