Who will end up getting the rights to stream Thursday Night Football?

Streaming is the future. Heck, streaming is the present. There are plenty of times when I will move from live TV to recorded TV to streaming and not even think about it. It’s a reality that’s only getting more and more important. If you have doubts, look at what’s happening now with Thursday Night Football.

There are several articles, including this one from Variety that say that the fight for Thursday Night games is pretty fierce. Remember, these same games are going to be live on CBS and NBC, so the real story here is that someone thinks there’s value in paying for what people could be getting for free over the air. And we’re not talking about small companies here: Apple, Amazon, Google and Verizon are all in the mix.

What about DIRECTV? While the company has grown immensely due to its popular NFL Sunday Ticket package, their name has never been associated with Thursdays, and that could be due to non-compete agreements with networks and affiliates. It could also be that DIRECTV is also rumored to be putting the finishing touches on a streaming service of its own that could potentially already include these broadcast feeds.

The Thursday night deals wouldn’t affect the exclusivity of NFL Sunday Ticket. Monday Night and Thursday Night NFL broadcasts have never been a part of the package, and for a company like DIRECTV, the real draw is on Sundays when people could potentially go to bars and restaurants, who pay dearly for the Sunday Ticket package.

Personally, I’m most interested in finding out what players like Apple, Amazon, and Google will do if they get Thursday night games. Apple doesn’t currently have a streaming video service or an all-you-can-eat package like Prime Video, so will they charge for the games over iTunes? Will anyone pay? Amazon could easily roll this into Prime Video, but it would be the company’s first foray into live streaming. They certainly have the backbone to handle it, and they have proven that they can conquer any new market they choose to. Google could integrate NFL into its pricey YouTube Red service, and in my opinion that would be the best fit. Google has done plenty of live streams and they have a very strong video backbone. After 10 years of free YouTube videos, they’re cautiously moving into paid video and streaming, and this would probably be a good high-profile move for them.

Verizon has also been mentioned as a suitor, and this would be a sensible move for them given that their competitor AT&T now has access to streaming rights for Sundays through DIRECTV. This would restore a bit of the balance to the relationship between the two rivals, and could potentially slot nicely into Verizon’s Go90 streaming video service, which up to now hasn’t been terribly interesting for a lot of people.

Personally I think that it would be better to roll these games into a streaming service like Prime Video than try to charge people a la carte. I see this as adding value to an existing package for sure, but I struggle to imagine a case where someone would pay to stream a single game. What do you think?