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The NFL is debuting a streaming service — with some major caveats

<i>Stacy Revere/Getty Images</i><br/>NFL+
Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

The NFL launched a streaming service Monday. That sounds like a football fan’s dream, but it’s probably not what you think.

For $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year, the new NFL+ service will offer access to live local and prime time games. That’s the same content the league had offered for free on its NFL mobile app for the past several years.

NFL+ is also available exclusively on phones and mobile tablets. Users won’t be able to stream games to TVs using the service.

The NFL may be dipping its foot into more streaming waters, but it is not throwing away the old fashioned way of watching games.

This is good news for the television industry, because the NFL is among the biggest ratings drivers on the air. But it allows the league to experiment a bit in the streaming world, make some extra cash and build a subscriber base with fans who are more focused on streaming.

NFL+ also offers live local and national audio for every game, NFL Network shows on-demand, and access to the NFL Films archives, according to the league.

“Today marks an important day in the history of the National Football League with the launch of NFL+,” Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, said in a statement Monday. “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.”

Goodell added that the league is looking forward to continuing to grow NFL+ while providing “access to a tremendous amount of NFL content, including the most valuable content in the media industry: live NFL games.”

There’s also an NFL+ premium version, which costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. That tier includes all the features of the cheaper version but also comes with full game replays and other options.

The NFL had been an outlier among the four major US pro sports leagues as the only one without a direct-to-customer streaming subscription service. NFL+, however, is far more limited than NBA League Pass, NHL.TV or MLB.TV, which offer out-of-town games in addition to local ones. DirecTV remains the NFL’s exclusive partner for out-of-town football matchups, although that so-called Sunday Ticket contract expires at the end of this year, and there is much speculation about which provider will pick up the reins.

The NFL’s TV viewership for the 2021 regular season was up roughly 10% overall from the year prior, bringing in an average of 17.1 million viewers per game on TV and digital. That is the highest regular season average since 2015, according to the league.

Last year, the NFL signed a 10-year deal beginning in 2023 with its TV partners that’s valued at more than $100 billion.

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