Michigan football fans will be “pitchfork angry” this fall when they find out they can’t watch the team’s season opener on TV. Will the selection of UM football for a “streaming exclusive” game on Peacock motivate subscribers, or will it backfire? Here is why I think NBC made the wrong call.
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As a kid who grew up attending Michigan football games in the “Big House,” I know first-hand the passion of the Wolverine’s fanbase. Michigan fans are everywhere, with large alumni pockets in New York, LA, and Chicago, and when Michigan football is on TV, people watch, which is undoubtedly a big part of the reason NBC picked Michigan’s 2023 season opener against East Carolina for the debut of its first NCAAF “streaming exclusive” game.
For those who haven’t heard the news, the only place to watch Michigan vs. East Carolina on 9/2/23 is on Peacock, NBC Universal’s streaming service. The game will not be available on TV anywhere, only online.
How did this happen?
As part of the Big Ten’s new media deal, FOX, CBS, and NBC are the big players for Big Ten Football, and ESPN is out of the picture.
NBC negotiated 8 exclusive Peacock games as part of its new TV deal with the Big 10
FOX, who also owns Big Ten Network, will have first choice of games each week for its Big Noon Kickoff franchise, but CBS and NBC will also feature games each week, with NBC launching a primetime game called Big Ten Saturday Night. While most NBC games will be featured on local NBC affiliates nationwide, with Peacock as a simulcast backup option, NBC was also able to negotiate the rights to 8 exclusive Big Ten Football games to be available only on Peacock each season.
Michigan vs. ECU will be the first of those 8 games.
MLB has moved towards streaming exclusives
Of course, there is a precedent for streaming exclusive games, with MLB as a notable test case. Peacock already has an exclusive MLB Sunday morning doubleheader, called Sunday Morning Baseball. The only way to watch Sunday Morning Baseball is on Peacock; every usual TV option is blacked out for MLB fans.
Similarly, Apple TV+ has Friday Night Baseball, and Amazon, part owner of the YES Network, carves out several Yankee games each season for Amazon Prime coverage.
I don’t have data on whether these streaming exclusive MLB games are profitable for the media companies that paid for them or whether they motivate signups. However, I do have data from the comments section of this site about how well received these games are by fans.
They aren’t well received at all, they make fans absolutely furious.
Michigan fans will be furious about the ECU Peacock game
In short, sports fans hate streaming exclusive games, and I guarantee that Michigan football fans will be no exception.
My blog post explaining to Yankee fans why they can’t watch the team on YES Network has 78 comments, all expressing outrage over losing access to games they paid for, either through cable or a live TV streaming service.
With their loyal diehard fanbase, I understand why NBC picked the Michigan season opener for its first Peacock-only game, but I see it as an overreach. The Michigan season opener is a sacred event for many households, including the household I grew up in.
It should be available on TV.
Rather than inspiring new subscribers, hiding UM’s first football game of the 2023 college football season behind a Peacock paywall could damage the streaming service’s brand and engender animosity.