Peacock Streaming Service Slammed for ‘Bait-and-Switch’ Exclusive NFL Playoff Game

By: ScreenGawk Staff | Last updated: Feb 05, 2024

Both the NFL and NBC are in the hot seat as they made the controversial decision to show the Dolphins vs. Chiefs wild-card playoff game on January 13, 2024, exclusively on the membership-only streaming site Peacock.

And Republican Congressman Pat Ryan from New York called out both companies in a letter, claiming that the “bait-and-switch” decision was “a disgrace” to loyal fans. 

The NFL Has Broadcast Contracts with Four Companies

Before diving into the current debate, it’s first important to understand how NFL games are typically broadcasted.

Photograph of a group of friends watching a football game in the living room

Source: iStock

As of 2024, the NFL has broadcast contracts with four major companies: Paramount Global, NBCUniversal, Fox Corporation, and The Walt Disney Company. Games typically air on CBS, NBC, Fox, and ESPN, channels that most Americans can watch because they are included in their broadcast packages. 

NBC Decided to Only Show Some Games on Peacock

But NBC essentially decided to take some of its allotted games and make them exclusively available on Peacock, the company’s membership-only streaming site. 

The NBC peacock logo is seen on the NBC studios building in Burbank, California

Source: David McNew/Getty Images

This means that NFL fans have to pay an additional $5.99 per month for a subscription to Peacock, in addition to their cable package, to watch all NBC games.

NFL Games Are Never “Free”

It’s important to note that while it may feel as though NFL games are free to watch, Americans are paying for the channels such as CBS, NBC, and ESPN, every month through their cable provider.

Chiefs versus Dolphins AFC Wild Card Playoffs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 13, 2024

Source: David Eulitt/Getty Images

And some are arguing that NFL fans are already paying more than enough to be able to watch their teams play, and they certainly shouldn’t have to pay more.

What Pat Ryan Has to Say about all This

No one may be as upset as congressman Pat Ryan, who called out NBC and the NFL in a letter he addressed to Roger Goodell and Rick Cordella, the commissioner and president respectively.

New York congressman Rep. Pat Ryan

Source: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

In the letter, Ryan wrote, “It’s a disgrace. Fans already face exorbitant prices to watch every game during the regular season; they don’t deserve to be squeezed even further by greedy corporations.”

The Now-Famous Letter

Ryan continued on the letter, which he shared on his X page, “This bait-and-switch is particularly egregious for consumers who already pay for NBC as part of their cable package. Since Peacock is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, this exclusive deal essentially double-charges loyal fans to watch games they thought they had already paid for.”

Rep. Pat Ryan’s letter to NBC and NFL regarding streaming games

Source: @RepPatRyanNY/X

And called out both corporations for their significant profit margins saying, “Enough is enough. The NFL raked in $12 billion in 2022, while NBCUniversal made nearly $40 billion. It’s time we put power back where it belongs: with the fans.”


Ryan Is Calling for Change

At the end of Ryan’s scathing letter, he wrote, “I’m requesting that you offer the game on broadcast television, end the exclusive and exploitative streaming deals for good, and commit to making games accessible for fans to watch throughout the season.”

Screenshot of a X post by @RepPatRyanNY about the NFL and NBC

Source: @RepPatRyanNY/X

However, the letter didn’t seem to make as much of an impact as Ryan had hoped. On January 13, NBC proceeded with its original plan to only show the Chiefs-Dolphins game on Peacock.


Pat Ryan Isn’t the Only Frustrated Politician

While Pat Ryan’s letter is making headline news around the country, he’s not the only politician who believes that the NFL’s broadcasting situation is out of control. 

Andrew Yang speaks to voters at a campaign event

Source: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Mayoral candidate for New York Andrew Yang wrote a post on X that read, “if I were President you would never have to download Peacock to watch an NFL playoff game.”


Even Football Players Are Speaking out Against NBC

Even one of the Chiefs’ players, Charles Omenihu, took to social media to express his shock in NBC’s decision to only play the game on Peacock. 

Charles Omenihu #90 of the Kansas City Chiefs shows off his gloves before an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Miami Dolphins

Source: Kara Durrette/Getty Images

Omenihu wrote in a X post, “Us playing on peacock ONLY is insane I won’t lie,” and commented “hey @peacock I want to see our Chiefs fans happy.”


Why Is NBC Forcing NFL Fans to Sign Up for Peacock?

Of course, making games exclusively available on NBCUniversal means NFL fans will have to subscribe, and therefore, increase the company’s revenue stream.

The NBC Universal logo hangs on its headquarters, Los Angeles, California

Source: David McNew/Getty Images

But NBC Sports President Rick Cordella said the decision is mostly about showing America what Peacock has to offer.  He told the press, “It’s more or less, get them in the door with football, and expose them to the library, which we think is one of the best — if not the best — in streaming. It’s a lot more than just this football game.”


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Has Yet to Respond

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFl, hasn’t publicly responded to Pat Ryan’s letter or the general frustrations of the fans and even players regarding the issue. 

Roger Goodell speaks onstage during the 2023 HOPE Global Forum

Source: Derek White/Getty Images

Goodell has been commissioner since 2006, and his contract was recently extended until 2027. And while some have doubts as to whether or not he’s doing what’s best for the NFL, one thing Goodell has done is brought in billions of dollars for the organization in broadcasting deals.


What’s Next for the NFL?

Whether or not Pat Ryan’s letter will actually make a difference in how the NFL and its networks offer games is yet to be seen. 

The NFL logo and American Football field markings on the surface of MetLife Stadium

Source: Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images

However, as football fans will do almost anything to watch their favorite teams play, it seems unlikely that these corporations will actually be forced to make significant changes. People will continue to pay to watch, even if they’re paying twice.


The Decline of Football

This controversy comes in the midst of a huge change with both players and fans of the sport. In 2020, Forbes reported on the accelerating decline of football, citing declining numbers of Super Bowl viewers, youth participation, and lower-level game attendance. 

A football player fumbling the ball in a pass attempt.

Luis Santoyo/Unsplash

The problems of retaining viewers will only accelerate as its target audience has trouble easily watching their favorite games.


Falling Youth Participation

In 2023, the Washington Post reported that in 2006 over 1.1 million boys were playing football. Since then, participation in the sport has dropped by 17 percent. This drop is more than any other of the top 10 major sports played in America.

A football laying on the ground.

Anushka Srivastav/Unsplash

If a future generation of boys are not as interested in football this will create a huge player drop when those kids normally would have been signing up for high school and college teams.


11 Player Football Not Sustainable

As the number of young participants decreased, it caused a shift in the format of the game. 11-player teams are more difficult to get enough players for, so smaller team formats have been more popular. 

A crowd of people watching a football game.

Abigail Keenan/Unsplash

According to a National Federation of State High School Association survey, 8,500 more high schoolers played on six to nine-player teams between 2021 and 2022 than in 2008 to 2009.


Why are Youth Numbers Declining?

Football participation is suffering for a variety of reasons. Recent fears of the health risks of the sport have dissuaded parents from signing up their kids at an early age. 

A field goal post on a football field.

Alek Kalinowski/Unsplash

In particular, research has shown that the tackle football format can cause serious harm to a person’s health if they sustain a concussion. In 2016, tackle football saw a 29% decline for kids between six and 12 years old (via the Aspen Institute).


Problems with CTE

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) presents a real risk to young athletes, especially in football. The National Institutes of Health reported in 2023 that 40% of contact sports players who died before the age of 30 had CTE.

A young player holding their football helmet

Ben Hershey/Unsplash

Football players run into each other at high speeds, crashing with the full weight of their bodies. This can create a rattling in the skull of a player, leading to a high rate of concussions.


NFL Still Posting Big Numbers of CTE

Despite attempts in recent years for the NFL to try to reduce the harm the sport has on players, the statistics have not given people signs of hope. ESPN reported that in 2022, the NFL saw a huge 18% jump in concussions from the previous year. 

An NFL logo surrounded by footballs in the background.

Adrian Curiel/Unsplash

These numbers come after changes the league made to take concussions more seriously, including rule changes designed to protect players.


Participation in Team Sports is Down Across the Board

Sports enthusiasts observed a team sport participation decline that they were expecting after the United States locked down after the pandemic. They also expected those numbers to bounce back in a big way after things recovered.

A group of young boys lining up for a football game.

Ben Hershey/Unsplash

However, Forbes reported that in 2022, 1.2 million fewer youth were playing sports compared to numbers in 2019. High school sports have also been declining in the same time period for sports like football, basketball, soccer, and baseball.


Why Are Less Kids Playing Sports in General?

An Aspen Institute report from 2021 showed that kids are much more likely now than before to lose interest in their primary sport. 

A young boy wearing a football helmet.

Ben Hershey/Unsplash

The pandemic broke parents and their kid’s habits of going to sports practice and the routine of sports engagement. Since kids are more likely to get bored with their sport, they are more keen to fill that time slot with other activities.


Children Picked Up Bad Habits from the Pandemic

So if kids aren’t playing sports, what are they doing with their time? Unfortunately, many of these kids have picked up unhealthy habits from their time in pandemic isolation.

A game over screen from the popular game "Pacman."


Kids have picked up sedentary hobbies at increasing rates like video games and watching television. This sedentary lifestyle choice has affected the motor development of these children, making a return to sports even more difficult.


Childhood Obesity Epidemic

While the worst days of the COVID-19 epidemic seem behind us, we have traded one epidemic for another. An increasing health problem in the United States is childhood obesity, which is set to rise to historic levels. 

A tape measure unrolled on a table.

Siora Photography/Unsplash

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2023, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in just 30 years, spurred on by the pandemic.


Parents Caught in the Middle

American parents are in a tough position between two extremes of outcomes for their child’s health. If they allow their child to participate in team sports, they may have better outcomes for obesity, but risk developing concussions or other injuries from sports like football that can hurt their quality of life.

A father and son discussing while looking at a laptop.

Kenny Eliason/Unsplash

However, if they stay away from sports altogether, they are missing out on the benefits of exercise and team-building.


The NFL is Worried About Youth Participation

The NFL is well aware of these issues and how they will affect the future of the sport. In 2022, the NFL made efforts to invest more than $2 million to support high school football and youth programs, according to USA Today

The NFL logo on a football field.

Adrian Curiel/Unsplash

It’s unclear if just spending money will be enough to get out of the problem. As fewer young people grow up exposed to the sport this will have a cascading effect on viewership as when these young people grow up they will likely be watching something else instead of the NFL.