NFL 2023: Changing the Way We Experience the Game

Today’s guest columnist is Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications.

The transition from summer to fall means we are closer than ever to delivering another season of unpredictable football.

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For 18 straight years, no team has repeated as Super Bowl champion. Since 1990—a remarkable streak of 33 consecutive seasons—at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before. In 2022 alone, half of all division winners and half of all playoff teams were new. Jacksonville completed the “worst-to-first” turnaround in 2022, winning the AFC South the season after finishing in last place. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 18 of the past 20 seasons.

And now the hundreds of millions of fans who watch our game each season will have even more ways to enjoy the action. With increasing demand for football—121 million fans tuned in to NFL games during last year’s Kickoff weekend, while more than 250 million viewers around the world watched Super Bowl LVII—the NFL’s newest broadcast agreements continue a long-held philosophy to make our games as widely available as possible.

Meeting our fans where they are has been a major key to our growth and success the past 50 years. For the vast majority of that time, we have relied on broadcast TV to be our main method of reaching fans, and to be clear, traditional television is still the best way to reach them today. Yet technology is changing nearly every aspect of our lives and the way we watch our favorite shows and movies. Sports are no exception.

That’s why in the latest round of media deals—which we struck in 2021 but take effect this season—we made a strategic decision to increase the digital distribution of NFL games. By doing so, the NFL is ushering in a new era of sports streaming, just as we led the way on broadcast, cable and satellite in decades prior.

Working closely with our longtime partners CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC, fans will have the ability to watch each NFL game on digital platforms, including exclusive games on Peacock, ESPN+ and a first-ever Black Friday game on Prime Video. This is in addition to Thursday Night Football, which enters its second season on Amazon’s Prime Video.

Not only does making our games available on digital platforms increase the availability of our content, it also allows our partners to add innovative new features which appeal to a younger audience and the next generation of NFL fans. This was evident last year when the first season of Thursday Night Football on Prime Video—the first-ever package of games from a major professional league to be exclusively streamed—produced the youngest median age for an NFL broadcast package since 2013.

Additional digital distribution can be found this season with the NFL’s signature Sunday Ticket package—previously on satellite for 25 years—now exclusively on YouTube and YouTube TV. Featuring all out-of-market games on Sunday afternoons, NFL Sunday Ticket will include even more fan-friendly features, including multi-view—an extensive selection of combinations providing viewers up to four games to watch simultaneously each week.

And all this digital distribution is in addition to NFL+, which starts its second season and offers fans the ability to watch all in-market games on their phone or tablet along with a livestream of NFL Network and NFL RedZone across all devices.

By offering an unmatched experience in as many places as possible, our audience continues to grow younger and more global. This season, CBS and Nickelodeon are teaming up for the first-ever broadcast of the Super Bowl geared exclusively to kids. (Bring on the slime.) Consider, too, our international series—with another three games in London and two in Frankfurt this season—part of a growing worldwide footprint.

Innovation continues to enhance the way we watch football—whether that’s in increased digital distribution, giving our broadcast partners new options for flexing the best matchups to the most fans, providing longtime fans new ways to engage with their favorite sport, or attracting new people to our game.

Right now, on fields big and small, football is kicking off—from youth leagues and flag to Friday night lights and college rivalries. And we could not be more excited that the grandest stage of them all—the NFL—is more accessible than ever. A clean slate of 272 games lies ahead with renewed playoff hopes for every team, and it’s all coming to a television, phone and tablet near you.

Enjoy the season. You can’t make this stuff up.

Prior to becoming executive vice president of communications in 2020, Miller served as executive vice president for health and safety initiatives and launched the league’s Washington office as senior vice president in charge of governmental and public affairs.

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