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Newly Launched NFL+ Charges for Games That Used to Be Free: Here’s What’s Included

The NFL's new streaming service is not a one-stop destination for all things football. And now you're going to have to pay for games that were free online.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals during the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Super Bowl LVI

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The NFL launched its own subscription streaming service on Monday, offering live games, replays, and on-demand content. But NFL+ is far from a one-stop destination for football fans: To get the fullest array of content — and to access it wherever and however you want — you’ll need to subscribe to other streaming and linear services. At the very least, you’re not going to want to throw out that over-the-air TV antenna just yet.

The SVOD service’s launch adds another layer of complexity to an already dizzying NFL broadcast landscape. NFL+ has two paid tiers, both are available through the existing NFL app. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included — and also of what’s not.

The basic tier, at $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually, offers local and primetime games — including the Super Bowl, live — but you can only watch games on smart phones or tablets. To watch them on a TV, you’ll need separate access to ABC, Amazon Prime Video, CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC, and NFL Network, depending on the game.

This few-frills tier offers live, out-of-market preseason games; live audio for every game of the season; plus ad-free, on-demand NFL library programming, available on all devices, including smart TVs.

Most of the NFL+ games used to be available for free on the NFL app and Yahoo Sports. Because if anybody needs the money, it’s the NFL.

The premium tier, at $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, adds full and condensed game replays for all games across all devices, plus coaches’ film. The package replaces features previously available on NFL Game Pass, which as of now is no longer offered in the U.S.

The NFL season, including pre- and postseason, runs from (generously) August to February, making the annual option(s) less automatic than an extra point.

The biggest NFL fans will continue to need a subscription to Sunday Ticket, which offers out-of-market games that don’t air nationally in primetime. The service will continue to be available exclusively on DirecTV until the end of the upcoming season; for the first time since Sunday Ticket’s 1990s launch, the satellite provider isn’t in the running for the rights.

Sunday Ticket is expected to go to a streamer beginning with the 2023-24 season. Amazon, Apple, and Disney reportedly put in bids already for the rights that should go for at least $1.5 billion a year. And the New York Times reported on Sunday that Alphabet (fka Google) is also now in the running; it wants to offer the package on YouTube.

The launch of NFL+ comes as the league locked up broadcast rights for the next decade in a historically expensive set of deals with networks and streamers. The broadcast networks, plus ESPN and Amazon Prime, paid a collective $113 billion for rights that run through 2033. That means old-fashioned TV (or a live-TV service like YouTube TV or Hulu+ Live TV) is still pretty necessary — for now.

“The passionate and dedicated football fans are the lifeblood of the NFL, and being able to reach and interact with them across multiple platforms is incredibly important to us,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Monday. “We look forward to continuing to grow NFL+ and deepening our relationship with fans across all ages and demographics, providing them access to a tremendous amount of NFL content, including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games.”

Football’s entry into streaming will include some games simulcast on Peacock, ESPN+, Tubi, and Paramount+, while “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon Prime Video will be the only way to watch that particular subset of out-of-market primetime games.

The pricey sports-on-streaming invasion all comes down to the fact that the NFL is still the surest bet on linear TV and a big advertising moneymaker: Viewership last season was up about 10 percent. Touchdown. Nothing this side(line) of probably “Stranger Things” and “Bridgerton” can say the same.

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