UPDATED, 4:01 PM: The NFL responded to the WSJ report today by saying there are no plans to add more games on Thursday nights, let alone discussions about who might air them. Brian McCarthy, the league’s VP Communications, tweeted today: “Wondering where the idea of Thursday night doubleheaders came from? So are we. We have not considered this.”
PREVIOUSLY: This possibility petrifies cable and satellite execs. Who knows how many sports fans would cut the video cord if they had a Web-based alternative to satisfy their craving for live games? Yet The Wall Street Journal this morning strangely buried the possibility of a digital deal with the NFL in a story about the league’s interest in selling a new package of Thursday night games. (Officials are disappointed with the performance of the Thursday matches that air on their NFL Network.) While the league believes that a cable channel would be interested in a new package, officials “have also considered” selling to “a nontraditional media partner, including online players like Netflix Inc. or Google Inc.” according to an unnamed source. And why not? Google’s executives reportedly met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about rights to the Sunday Ticket package when the deal with DirecTV expires at the end of 2014. Netflix also is eager to try different kinds of programming. CEO Reed Hastings noted in response to a question in an analyst call in July that “HBO and Showtime do sports.” A deal with the NFL would help Netflix to build itself into a sports destination that would attract additional customers and give it leverage to raise its monthly price, Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says. But he doubts that Netflix can pull it off just yet. The company presents video of its earnings calls via YouTube because it “does not have the ability to do live streaming” — although the opportunity of landing the NFL “may be great enough” for it to build the capability.