The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 29 and super-fans can now look forward to a week’s worth of previews on Clubhouse.
The National Football League and Clubhouse have officially teamed up on a draft week bonanaza for the social audio platform. Starting on Monday, April 26, Clubhouse will become home to a collection of NFL-hosted rooms featuring “a pre-Draft assessment of the prospective players, a conversation with The University of Alabama’s football team alumni, a fan mock Draft, Draft debriefs and more,” according to the announcement.
There isn’t a lineup of guest speakers listed, though Clubhouse suggests it’ll include athletes, coaches, and “network personalities.” The key here, and really the thing that makes Clubhouse what it is, is these rooms will also afford listening fans an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts on the draft.
This whole endeavor is noteworthy for a couple reasons. It’s perhaps the highest-profile partnership that Clubhouse has scored to date. The NFL is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the country, and also the top moneymaker and a dominant force on television. In terms of popularity and public profile, it doesn’t get much bigger than the NFL.
That’s a huge get for Clubhouse, which is the new kid on the block among social media platforms. Launched barely a year ago in April 2020, the still-invite-only app that’s currently an iOS exclusive has spurred interest across the social media spectrum in developing services to compete with Clubhouse’s all-audio delivery.
It’s increasingly viewed as an upstart platform facing steep odds for long-term success as older and more widely used examples like Twitter and Facebook line up to compete. So hitching Clubhouse to the NFL brand is a notable boost that keeps the platform in people’s heads.
For the NFL, this partnership with Clubhouse feels like an extension of some more significant changes the sports league is facing. Our increasingly online world and its abundance of streaming video platforms has diminished the demand for cable TV, which has long been the NFL’s kingdom to rule. The cost of keeping pro sports on one network or another is a big reason why cable subscriptions are so expensive.
In recent months, though, there have been indications that NFL leadership is waking up to the realities of entertainment consumption online. The league isn’t quite ready to ditch cable for good, but its massive, new multi-billion dollar, multi-year TV deal bakes in a bunch of deal points focused on streaming.
For one, Amazon is more in the mix than ever, with the online retail and streaming giant now holding exclusive broadcast rights for Thur0sday Night Football — in exchange for $1 billion annually. Deals with CBS, ESPN, NBC, and Fox also set things up so streaming subscribers can expect to find games and other content on Paramount+, ESPN+, Peacock, and Fox’s Tubi.
Looking back on that TV deal, which made headlines in late March, it’s hard not to see this Clubhouse team-up as the next step in a broader strategy. The NFL wants to be more online than ever starting in 2021.