The National Football League has announced changes to its NFL+ streaming service, most notably the addition of NFL Network and NFL RedZone with subscriptions. It marks the league launching its own direct-to-consumer product as the media landscape continues to lean towards digital consumption. Additionally, monthly pricing for NFL+ have increased to $6.99 for the standard package and $14.99 for the premium package.
NFL Network is included in the standard bundle, which also includes live game audio, ad-free NFL Films and on-demand content and live out-of-market preseason games. The linear channel reportedly has 51.1 million total subscribers, down by 20 million over the last 10 years as the rate of cord cutting continues to accelerate. The premium package provides fans with everything in NFL+, including NFL Network, along with NFL RedZone and various condensed ad-free film replays.
The league launched NFL+ last season and gave fans the ability to watch or listen to local game broadcasts on various platforms. This over-the-top platform (OTT) becomes one of the first to offer a league-owned broadcast network direct-to-consumer. It aligns with the path regional and national sports networks are taking to better meet their audience as the media landscape continues to change.
“We launched NFL+ last season to further grow our direct relationship with millions of fans,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The response was excellent. And as we embark on the second season of NFL+, we are excited to add NFL Network and NFL RedZone and provide greater access to football content for NFL fans everywhere.”
Scott Hanson, the host of NFL RedZone from NFL Network, teased the NFL+ announcement yesterday on X, formerly known as Twitter. He will now be the sole host of RedZone after DIRECTV lost NFL Sunday Ticket to YouTube. The former host of that version of the program, Andrew Siciliano, will retain his role with NFL Network and also call select college football games on NBC as part of its new Big Ten Conference package.
“I know you’re not used to seeing me before Week 1 but I had to just grab the camera here real quick and let you know, there’s a big announcement coming,” Hanson said. “And I’m talking a big announcement. I’m talking like Justin Jefferson one-handed catch on fourth down big. I’m talking like Patrick Mahomes game-winning drive in the Super Bowl-type big, and it’s going to make a lot of you very, very happy.”
The NFL is currently in the first year of its media rights agreement that totals over $12 billion per season with entities such as Paramount Global, Comcast, FOX Corporation and The Walt Disney Company among others. Amazon Prime Video is the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football and will stream the league’s first Black Friday game this year when the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins. The property also received flex scheduling ability between weeks 13 and 17, along with Monday Night Football on ESPN. NBC’s Sunday Night Football, the most-watched program in prime time for 12 consecutive years, retains its ability to use flex scheduling throughout the year.
Sports Media Reacts to Passing of Jim Caple
“We all love Jim Caple so much and he loved you.”
Longtime ESPN baseball writer Jim Caple passed away on Sunday, his wife announced in a statement on social media. The 17-year ESPN veteran covered 20 World Series for the network, in addition to other sports media endeavors with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
He most recently wrote for The Athletic on topics including baseball, tennis, and the WNBA. Caple had been fighting both ALS and dementia and passed away at the age of 61, surprising and devastating those across the sports media world.
“My person, best friend, and husband died on Sunday afternoon,” his wife wrote on Facebook. “We all love Jim Caple so much and he loved you. Many great times, laughs, and adventures with all of us with Jim. Go in peace, my love.”
Kevin Jackson, a former vice president at ESPN and Caple’s editor, issued a statement on the passing of his venerated colleague. The duo worked closely on many stories for ESPN platforms, including on Page 2 where he was able to transform a story into a book deriding the New York Yankees titled, “The Devil Wears Pinstripes.”
“Jim was an amazing and prolific writer who always found the joy in sports,” Jackson said. “Whether he was writing about baseball, the Olympics, the NCAA Tournament or his beloved Tour de France, Jim cared deeply about the games we play, but he never took them too seriously.”
Those within the sports media industry reacted to the unfortunate news, sharing their memories of Caple and expressing their condolences.
Former CNN Exec Jeff Zucker Purchases Stake in Front Office Sports
“The team at Front Office Sports has built an impressive platform for sports business journalism, and I’m excited to help it grow in the years ahead.”
Upon his departure from CNN one year ago, former network president Jeff Zucker launched RedBird IMI, a venture looking to invest in properties throughout the media and finance industries. The entity is composed of private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners and International Media Investments, and it has approximately $1 billion in capital backing from key figures within both entities. Zucker is now set to make his first acquisition and third investment with the reported purchase of a minority stake in Front Office Sports, a multiplatform media brand covering all aspects of sports business.
The company was launched by Chief Executive Officer Adam White and President Russell Wilde while they were in college, and the property rapidly flourished over the last several years. While most of the content from the publisher is free, it did begin selling paid subscriptions in 2021 and was able to raise $5 million from Crain Communications last year at an overall valuation of $25 million. According to Axios, which first reported news of negotiations and, ultimately, the closed deal, Front Office Sports will be part of EverWonder Studio – a new, non-fiction content outlet – being led by former Time, Inc. president Ian Orefice.
Orefice was recently involved in a deal between the studio and Meadowlark Media pertaining to a feature documentary about a feature documentary between tennis stars Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. With Zucker’s purchase, the company now has a valuation of $40 million, and it also installs him as co-chairman of the board alongside Jason Stein, an investor within SC Holdings.
“The team at Front Office Sports has built an impressive platform for sports business journalism, and I’m excited to help it grow in the years ahead,” Zucker said in a statement. “Audiences are more interested than ever in the business of sports, and this investment will allow Front Office Sports to create even more compelling news content that draws people in.”
The minority investment encompasses the 20% previously owned by Crain Communications, and also includes additional shares from SC Holdings. Both RedBird IMI and SC Holdings will have equal minority stakes, while the rest are owned by employees.
“The business of sports has become ubiquitous in recent years, permeating across all corners of culture. It now commands mainstream attention and is part of even the most casual fan’s daily content consumption,” White said in a statement. “The foundation of our company was built on a deep understanding and connection to this shift, and has long informed our editorial strategy and product development. As we enter this next stage of expansion, we are incredibly excited to partner with Jeff Zucker, one of the media industry’s greatest minds.”
“Front Office Sports has become a clear leader and important voice in the growing sports media landscape,” Stein added in a statement. “We were an early believer in their approach to covering sports in a way that would influence business leaders and inform fans. This credibility with highly coveted audiences will continue to separate them as they expand the business.”
Front Office Sports has a twice-daily newsletter with more than 800,000 subscribers and reports on news targeted towards both mainstream consumers and industry professionals. In recent news, the outlet was one of the first to report on Taylor Swift being in attendance for the Sunday Night Football matchup between the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. The company currently employs more than 40 reporters to contribute to its content, ensuring that it remains a timely and credible source of information.
Sports Media Reacts to NFL Toy Story Broadcast
Sports media was ablaze with reaction to the unique broadcast.
The NFL held the first London game of the season on Sunday as the Jacksonville Jaguars took on the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to being the first ESPN+ exclusive game of the season, the game also featured a kid-focused, Toy Story-themed simulcast.
Similarly to how the NFL did their SpongeBob SquarePants simulcasts, trackers on all the players allowed for the game to be transformed into the world of the beloved Pixar film series.
ESPN had a similar simulcast earlier this year in its NHL coverage, having a game transformed into the Disney show Big City Greens.
Several across sports media had positive reactions to Sunday’s Toy Story Football.
While the majority of the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, there were some who didn’t care for the simulcast and how it was presented. Barstool’s Kevin Clancy was in that group.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.