Notre Dame’s Week 2 Game Being Streaming-Exclusive is Likely to Become the Norm

by Suzanne Halliburton

Notre Dame may be the most recognized college football brand in the country. And on Saturday, the popularity of the Fighting Irish could be ushering in a new era in the sport.

If you want to see Notre Dame play host to Toledo, you need to be a subscriber to Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service. That’s the only place to see the game, other than to watch it in person at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Streaming usually is for binge-watching – think the “Netflix and chill” mantra. But media industry watchers have been predicting for years that streaming services would get in on live-action games.

ABC, ESPN, CBS and Fox all make their network games available for streaming. What’s different about the Irish-Toledo game? The Fighting Irish are a big-time program and the only place you can watch the game is via Peacock.

Keith Bank, the founder of venture capital firm KB Partners, called the Notre Dame-Toledo game “monumental.” His business invests in companies involved with streaming and sports betting.

Bank told On3 that Notre Dame usually is “a bellwether of some things, and others will probably follow their lead.”

Notre Dame Isn’t Only Marquee Program to Have Streaming-Only Game This Month

The Notre Dame-Toledo game won’t be the only matchup this month that will be streaming only. This Saturday’s LSU-McNeese State game, along with Ole Miss vs Austin Peay are only available on ESPN+. Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky also will have games later in the month available for streaming only.

Local NBC affiliate WNDU, which carries all the Notre Dame home games, ran a story earlier this week warning its viewers that the Fighting Irish won’t be on their channel this Saturday. The station doesn’t want a ton of angry callers who can’t find the Notre Dame home opener.

“This is just for this one game,” said WNDU General Manager John O’Brien. “It’s just for the home opener against Toledo. That’s a decision not made here locally. In other words, it’s not up to anyone here at WNDU to decide whether we can or cannot carry a game.”

Notre Dame games typically bring in huge TV numbers for the networks. NBC has the TV deal for the Fighting Irish home games, but other networks get the chance to show Notre Dame on the road.

The Irish’s overtime win on the road against Florida State attracted one of the biggest TV audiences ever for an opener on Labor Day weekend. The game averaged 7.1 million viewers. And it peaked at 8.8 million for the first overtime.

Now for the context behind the numbers. The Notre Dame game was the second-most-watched Sunday opener since 1996. It was a jump of 29 percent from the 2019 season-opening Sunday game between Oklahoma and Houston.

Peacock knows how to do sports. NBC used the streaming platform for its early morning and late-night Olympics coverage from Tokyo. The platform showed some of the live glamour events, including both the men’s and women’s 100-meter sprints in track and men’s basketball games.

The Notre Dame game is set for a 2:30 p.m Eastern time kickoff. The Fighting Irish are a 16.5 favorite.