The NFL is taking another big step into streaming by putting one of its playoff games exclusively on a digital platform for the first time.
The league and NBCUniversal announced Monday that the Saturday night game on wild card weekend will be on Peacock.
The Peacock exclusive game on Jan. 13 would start at 8:15 or 8:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on NBC stations in the markets of the two teams. It will also be available on mobile devices through the NFL+ package. It will be preceded by a late afternoon playoff game on NBC and Peacock that will kick off at 4:30 p.m. EST.
Subscription rates for Peacock start at $4.99 per month.
“We had our first season with Amazon (this past year) and I think that with the digital platforms, we’re ready for live sports at scale. And the next step is to step into the postseason,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media. “We like the plan that Peacock and NBC put together. In this case knowing we're going to have a bigger audience and focused on having the widest reach possible across each platform.”
The league has made forays into streaming games for nearly a decade, but has gone all in over the past couple seasons. Amazon Prime Video became the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football” last season while ESPN has had one international game per season on ESPN+ since 2021.
Under the NFL's 11-year contract with NBCUniversal that began this season, Peacock has an exclusive regular-season game. That will be on Dec. 23 when the Buffalo Bills face the Los Angeles Chargers in prime time. The Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers matchup on NBC will precede that.
“We spent a lot of time with the NFL and had productive meetings about the proper positioning of that (Peacock) game,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said last week when the regular-season schedule was released. “We think that’s going to be a great combination of using the power of NBC with that late-afternoon game and driving that audience to Peacock for the regular-season exclusive game.”
The Saturday night wild-card game the past two seasons has drawn over 20 million viewers. Last season's game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chargers averaged 20.6 million while Buffalo and New England averaged 26.4 million.
Whether Peacock can match or get close to those numbers remains to be seen. Last season's 15-game Thursday night package on Prime Video averaged 9.58 million according to Nielsen and 11.3 million according to Amazon's first-party measurement. The most-watched game was the first one between Kansas City and the Chargers. Nielsen had the average at 13 million while Amazon reported 15.3 million.
NBC will have three games during the first weekend of the postseason, marking the first time a network has had that many on a single playoff weekend.
NBC also has the prime-time Sunday game on Jan. 14, while Fox and CBS will have the earlier contests. ESPN has the Monday night game to close the opening weekend on Jan. 15. This will be the third year the NFL has played the wild-card games over three days.
Under the NFL's contract, each of the four broadcast partners — NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN/ABC — get at least one wild-card game. Of the two remaining games, one game rotates each year between NBC, CBS and Fox, while the other will likely be up for bid each year. That means Amazon or ESPN+ could eventually be in the running for a future postseason game.