How the NFL reshuffled the App Store

The first game of the NFL’s 2023-2024 regular season took place on Thursday, September 7th, when the Detroit Lions met the Kansas City Chiefs. Fourteen NFL games were played on Sunday, September 10th — on that day, the 10 apps in the App Store that saw the largest one-day rank jump were all, plausibly, related to watching NFL games (and remaining sufficiently fed while so doing):

The first chart above depicts the one-day chart delta for the 10 apps that saw the largest one-day jumps in Top Downloaded rankings from Saturday, September 9th to Sunday, September 10th. And the second chart depicts those apps’ Top Downloaded chart ranking positions over time (gaps in the graphs represent days wherein those apps dropped outside of the Top 100).

(The impact on the Google Play store was much less concentrated.)

Examining this dynamic raises some observations on the state of the streaming market:

  1. A dizzying selection of streaming services offer access to NFL content, and they all seem mostly fungible. At any point in time, consumers have ample choice in terms of access to NFL content. Hulu, Tubi, and Fubo all offer some quantity of NFL content on their services; as these services saturate their target markets, they can only really differentiate on price, which forces them to rely more heavily on access limitation and advertising, as I discuss in The great streaming squeeze;
  2. The surge in installs for Fubu were likely instigated by the ongoing dispute between Disney and Charter, which deprived Charter subscribers of access to ESPN’s NFL coverage. As is evident in the chart above, Fubo only entered the Top 100 Downloaded apps ranks, all categories, in the US on September 3rd — two days after Spectrum customers lost access to Disney content — and it peaked at rank #6 on September 10th. Fubo was clearly a beneficiary of the dispute, which ended with a deal on September 11th. I didn’t follow the situation closely and have only superficial thoughts about it, but I found Ben Thompson’s coverage very illuminating;
  3. The NFL is a sprawling social phenomenon that produces spillover effects for a number of different consumer categories. Food delivery, apparel (Nike), and sports betting all draft on widespread interest in NFL content. Nike’s app, in particular, seems to follow a regular cadence of popularity that maps to weekends and correlates curiously closely with Hulu’s.