Just two days before Christmas, some NFL fans may feel like they’ve gotten a lump of coal from their favorite sports league.
The Buffalo Bills beat the Los Angeles Chargers in a game that was far more exciting than it had any right to be on Saturday night, but it’s not clear who was around to watch it. (The Bills are desperately fighting for a playoff berth while the Chargers are without their injured franchise quarterback, and just fired their coach and general manager.)
That’s because the Christmas Eve eve tilt was broadcast exclusively on the Peacock streaming platform — leaving countless NFL viewers either unable to watch or watching via less legal means.
Peacock, the NBCUniversal streaming platform perhaps best known for carrying “The Office” and WWE, was the exclusive viewing home of the Bills-Chargers game, and that just didn’t sit well with fans.
Well just look at this list of services (and corresponding prices) that an NFL fan now needs to carry to watch every game from their favorite sports league:
- Basic cable (prices may vary)
- NFL Sunday Ticket, which carries every out-of-market NFL game ($174-$225 a year)
- Paramount Plus, which carries CBS ($5.99 a month)
- Amazon Prime, which carries “Thursday Night Football” ($14.99 a month)
- Peacock, which carries NBC and “Sunday Night Football” ($5.99 to $11.99 a month)
Even eliminating basic cable, having access to watch every NFL game is suddenly a very expensive habit.
The big issue for Saturday’s viewers was that there was an earlier game on NBC (the Pittsburgh Steelers walloped the Cincinnati Bengals 34-11) and many fans simply assumed that the next game would be broadcast next on the network, given the ties between NBC and Peacock.
All the fans assuming that, however, were greeted with regularly scheduled programming once the Steelers-Bengals game was over — not the Bills fighting for their playoff lives on the road.
Fans were unhappy all across social media, blasting the NFL for adding yet another price gate to its product.
The most telling and ominous response came from New York Post sports editor Drew Loftis, who took to X to blast the Scrooge-like greed:
— Drew Loftis (@NYPost_Loftis) December 24, 2023
“Sorry @peacock,” Loftis posted on Christmas Eve. “Not subscribing to watch one lonely game all season. So for first time in more than a decade, I don’t have access to a live NFL game.
“That’s how disinterest starts @NFL.”
A glance at the responses to Loftis’ post shows that many fans agreed with his sentiment.
Now, it’s worth noting that one game’s broadcast is hardly going to take down the monolithic NFL empire (even a diminished NFL is still by far and away the king of North American sports leagues.)
And it’s also worth noting that the NFL has survived genuine existential crises before, in the form of the infamous era of national anthem protesting that rocked the league in the mid-2010’s.
Fans left the league in droves after that, though a good number appear to have returned.
This feels different however, due in no small part to the general state of the economy. Nickel and diming your fans is never a good idea, but feels like an especially egregious one given the economic climate of 2023.
You also have to consider that outrage subsides and waxes. People learn to forget, if not forgive, more often than not.
That hole in your wallet? That delinquent bill? Time won’t fix those (if anything, with interest rates the way they are currently, time will undoubtedly make things worse.)
If it comes to having food in your pantry or carrying every last streaming platform that carries the NFL… which way do you think people will go?
In business, it’s often said that you can afford to make lots of small mistakes, and should make a few for learning purposes, but you can seldom afford very many big mistakes.
The NFL clearly made a small mistake here by sticking a late-season game with playoff implications on a single streaming platform.
Only time will tell if it turns into a big mistake.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.