The AFC Wild Card playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins on Sunday, played in frigid temperatures in Kansas City, was groundbreaking in more ways than one. The matchup between star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa, broadcast exclusively on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, shattered records for the most-streamed event in U.S. history.
Peacock’s Gamble Pays Off with Unprecedented Viewership
When NBC won the rights to broadcast an NFL playoff game for the first time, the network took a huge gamble by airing it exclusively on its Peacock streaming service, available only to paying subscribers. This left many football fans angry and scrambling for access.
But the gamble paid off big time for NBC and the NFL. An average minute audience of 23 million viewers streamed the game on Peacock, easily surpassing the previous high of about 10 million for a streamed event.
“The Chiefs-Dolphins game stands as the most-streamed event in U.S. history,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.
NBC said the AFC playoff battle led internet usage across the U.S. to spike 20% above typical levels on Sunday afternoon. It was such a streaming phenomenon that it even broke Peacock itself briefly, as the influx of viewers overwhelmed its servers.
Kansas City Fans Get Creative in Quest to Tune In
The Chiefs have some of the most loyal fans in football, and many of them were furious when they learned they wouldn’t be able to watch the team’s playoff opener on regular TV.
Some fans got creative in finding ways to tune in. Chiefs defensive end Charles Omenihu tweeted that he would Venmo fans money to sign up for a Peacock subscription. Across Kansas City, residents turned to sports bars only to find most weren’t carrying the game because of broadcasting restrictions.
Other fans took to Twitter to express their displeasure over the Peacock exclusive. Many called it a greedy money grab by the league and vowed not to tune in.
But with Mahomes and the Chiefs on the line, most fans ultimately found an outlet to watch, whether heading to a friend’s house with Peacock, signing up for the streaming service themselves, or finding alternative online streams. This drove the record viewership.
Chiefs Handle Dolphins Despite Frigid Temperatures
On the field, the Chiefs dominated the Dolphins 27-10 despite temperatures hovering around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. There were concerns leading up to the game about how Miami would handle the extreme cold in Kansas City, and the worries proved valid.
Mahomes threw for 195 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Chiefs advanced to face the Buffalo Bills next weekend in the divisional round. Tagovailoa and the warm-weather Dolphins had no answers for the conditions or the Chiefs defense, gaining just 234 total yards.
It was the 7th straight playoff win at home for Kansas City, further cementing Arrowhead Stadium’s reputation as an intimidating environment in January.
|Chiefs 27, Dolphins 10|
“This was a total team effort,” said Mahomes after the franchise’s 5th straight playoff victory overall. “The defense played incredible giving us short fields, the offensive line blocked their tails off with the run and pass game, and guys made plays when their number was called.”
What This Means for Future of NFL Broadcasts
The success of this pioneering streaming experiment was no doubt closely watched by league executives. With cord-cutting on the rise among young NFL fans especially, more games being put exclusively online in the coming years now seems highly likely.
“This looks like the beginning of a trend, not an exception,” wrote Mike Ozanian in Forbes. “Expect to see more NFL playoff games streamed in future seasons rather than aired on traditional television.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell, a vocal critic of sports teams embracing online streaming, said the NFL was purposely disregarding fans to generate more profits. But the league praised the Peacock broadcast as an innovation designed to reach modern audiences.
If nothing else, the Chiefs and Dolphins made history by playing in what will long be remembered as the inaugural Peacock Bowl.
Eyes Now Turn to Bills-Chiefs Showdown
After handling their business against an overmatched Dolphins squad, expectations will soar for the Chiefs heading into their matchup with the Bills next Sunday evening. The game will decide who represents the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Josh Allen and Buffalo have had Kansas City’s number recently, having won their last two meetings including a playoff victory last year. But playing at Arrowhead in January is a different animal, especially with Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid having two weeks to prepare.
With Sunday’s streaming success and another titanic quarterback clash on tap next weekend, the NFL is riding high on what could shape up to be a playoffs for the ages. Whether fans will need a Peacock subscription to witness the rest remains to be seen.
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