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Thanks to streaming, the NFL TV schedule is about get confusing. Here's the recap of the NFL's new deal and whether it's a touchdown or a fumble.

NFL’s 2021 TV schedule is messy: Go behind the 100 billion dollar deal

The NFL’s TV schedule has been launched into the twenty-first century. Primetime networks like NBC are offering their own streaming services and cable networks are also launching live streams, most notably ESPN who’s partnered with Hulu to bring sports fans live streams of this week’s football game. 

However, with streaming comes exclusive streaming rights and now, the NFL is launching new agreements with media companies that will last into 2033. What does this mean for you and your weekly date with this week’s NFL games on Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night? Let’s dive into the new NFL TV schedule. 

NFL & TV schedules

As sports fans across the nation know, the NFL TV schedule has remained unchanged for several decades. The NFL airs games on Sunday, with some games appearing on your TV schedule on Monday & Thursday. The latter coincides with the Thanksgiving football games you watch while passed out on the couch from eating too much food. 

Why not Friday & Saturday? As you probably know, those nights are reserved for high school & college football respectively. While Friday night football games are usually a local affair, college football is also subject to national TV schedules, especially around the “Bowls” (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, etc.). 

However, now that it’s 2021, watching NFL on your TV got more complicated – and convenient – than just turning on the tube, flipping through the channels, and relaxing with a beer & potato chips on the couch. With streaming, you can catch NFL games on the go – you’re not just confined to cable, or to your house, to catch the game. For you, that means mobility. For TV companies, that could mean dollar signs. 


According to The Hollywood Reporter, the NFL penned a 100-million-dollar deal with its TV partners, including The Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal, Fox Corp., ViacomCBS, and Amazon, for exclusive streaming rights on certain days and for certain events. 

The good news about the deal is that you can also catch the Super Bowl on ABC when the deal takes effect in 2023 That is, in the years 2026 & 2030. Bringing us to the bad news: if you want to catch Thursday Night Football, you need to give your dollar to Jeff Bezos. 

That’s right. The NFL just gave exclusive rights to stream Thursday Night Football to Amazon, so in order to tune in to Thursday night’s NFL TV schedule, you have to become a Prime member, potentially putting more money in Amazon’s pocket. 

Amazon also made history as the first-ever tech company to gain exclusive rights to a chunk of the NFL TV schedule. Prime Video’s senior VP Mark Hopkins elaborated: “NFL games are the most-watched live programming in the United States, and this unprecedented Thursday Night Football package gives tens of millions of new and existing Prime members exclusive access to must-watch live football on Prime Video.” 

Sunday Nights, Monday Nights

There are also changes to the NFL Sunday & Monday TV schedules, too. Looks like if you want to watch both Sunday Night and Monday Night Football, you’ll have to fork over two monthly payments to two different streaming services. Per The Hollywood Reporter, you can still find Monday Night Football on ESPN, but to watch football on Sundays, you have to tune into . . . ok, here’s where it gets complicated. 

On Sunday afternoons, NFL games are scheduled to appear on CBS & Fox, as they have for years. Since Fox is owned by Disney now, that probably means you’ll have to sign up for Disney Plus, or Disney Plus’s Hulu & ESPN bundle to tune into the game. Alternatively, CBS’s streaming service got swallowed by Paramount +, so to watch NFL games on Sunday, you can pick the Mouse or the Mountain to give your dollar to. 

Bringing us to Sunday Night Football. NBC will retain streaming rights to the biggest night in the NFL TV schedule, so you’ll need to fork over some dough to Peacock TV, NBC’s streaming service. 

Spend money, make money

All in all, while this new deal means you may be paying the price of a cable package to tune into every NFL game on the TV every week, it means big bucks for the NFL and its partners. Do we need to say that?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised the new deal, which is estimated to being in over $100 billion in revenue for the NFL & its partners (and make anyone who was alive in the 90s imagine Dr. Evil putting his pinky to his mouth and smirking), praised the new avenues this deal could open for streamers, declaring: 

“These new media deals will provide our fans even greater access to the games they love. We’re proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market. Along with our recently completed labor agreement with the NFLPA, these distribution agreements bring an unprecedented era of stability to the league and will permit us to continue to grow and improve our game.” 

They may have a point. The deal also expands “interactive and alternative presentations” per THR, who cited Nickelodeon’s family-friendly Wild Card game stream on its TV streaming schedule. 

Do you think divvying the NFL’s live TV schedule among streaming platforms will make the games more innovative, or will it just bust your wallet? Are you buying more streaming services in wake of the deal, synchronizing who buys what streaming service with friends, or maybe putting your pirate hat on, if you know what we mean? Let us know in the comments! ☠🏈

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