A new outlet for the NFL live package will be named from among three suitors, with a huge price tag attached.
Football fans have been somewhat vexed over the past few seasons if they were interested in out-of-market games. You either had to get a subscription through Direct-TV, which then would entitle you to pay upwards of $300 for the complete NFL schedule package (which is not unlike paying for a seat license in order to buy season tickets); otherwise, you had to find a local watering hole that had the package.
And if there was bad weather you are further out of luck, as storms frequently screw with the satellite signals.
Well, this is the final season that Direct-TV has the contract for the Sunday Ticket, and league commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL have been in year-long bidding negotiations for the rights to be retained for next year’s games – and it will prove to be a large payday for the league. Reportedly, there are three suitors for the league rights, and they are all streamers – Amazon, Apple, and Disney.
That all three are established streamers is especially notable, and that all three are massive entertainment companies is what will make this remarkably lucrative. The speculation is that the contract will be far greater than $2 billion, and when you consider the varying interests of these three entities, the bidding could provide an environment where the ceiling is not visible.
Goodell has declared that an announcement of which platform will be named as the new provider will be made in the coming months. All three players in this competition have significant cash reserves, and they have specific motivations for spending to get the NFL on their platforms.
Disney owns ESPN, and the company has wavered on what to do with that component. After Bob Iger exited, new CEO Bob Chapek was said to be considering spinning off the sports network, as subscriptions and ratings were dwindling. But then Dylan Beyers reported from the Sun Valley conference how that plan has been scrapped. If Disney wins the rights, then it could be seen as a way to rejuvenate ESPN +, and also benefit the main network, where it currently broadcasts Monday Night Football.
Amazon also has an inroad, as for the past few seasons its Prime platform has been showing select Thursday Night Football games; this season, it becomes the full-time provider for Thursday games, taking over that night’s rights from the NFL Network, which saw poor ratings due to low subscriber support. This year‘s deal arrives a year earlier, after signing a 10-year agreement for those rights, so this gives Amazon an established league relationship.
As for Apple, there could be significant motivation – and money. After launching its Apple+ streaming service, the company has seen mixed results. The critical hits have translated to mediocre subscription numbers. Apple+ titles rarely crack the top 10 in the streaming ratings. Meanwhile, the top-rated programs on television are all NFL games; in 2021, the top shows were the games shown on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights. Apple could spend big in order to lure those eyes to its flagging platform.
The only wrinkle here would be the price point, depending on who it is that wins the bidding war. While there is not the high, required dual subscription costs as currently seen with Direct-TV, there is a requirement from the current network contracts with Fox and CBS that the Sunday Ticket not drop below a certain price level, in order to retain the premium on those broadcasts.
This impending deal marks a significant shift for the league, as streaming can greatly broaden the availability for an audience. Simply taking down barriers like forced satellite subscriptions, proper dish exposure, and cloud cover will be sure to make a wider viewership available, leading to better ratings and advertising windfalls. It could prove interesting to see how the new deal shakes out for fans at home.