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NFL Commissioner Believes Sunday Ticket Will Be Streaming in 2023; NFL+ to Launch Before 2022 Season

Matt Tamanini

One of the most fascinating storylines to follow in the world of media lately has been the negotiations between the NFL and numerous current and potential broadcast partners over the rights to the league’s signature out-of-market package the NFL Sunday Ticket.

DIRECTV has been the home of the service that allows football fans to watch games not available on their local stations since it launched in 1994. However, following the 2022 season, the satellite service’s contract with the NFL will expire, and given the declining sway of traditional pay-TV subscriptions, the league is looking for a new home for the Sunday Ticket; although, DIRECTV is hoping to maintain a piece of the package.

Though Disney has been occasionally mentioned as a potential partner via ESPN and ESPN+, the two most likely candidates to land the lucrative package have long been Amazon and Apple.

On Friday at the Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin that not only does he expect there to be a deal in place for the Sunday Ticket by this fall, but he also said, “I clearly believe we’ll be moving to a streaming service.”

Roger Goodell on NFL Sunday Ticket:

Well, we’re continuing them. These discussions have been going on for well over a year. It’s an important decision for us because these assets are really valuable to us. I clearly believe we’ll be moving to a streaming service. I think that’s best for the consumers at this stage. But we have so much interest right now and there’s so much innovation around that and how we’re going to be able to change the way people watch football. I think we’ll probably have some decision by the fall.”

Earlier this spring, reports began circulating that Apple had essentially already wrapped up the rights to the valuable package, but in the intervening months, Amazon seems to have gotten back into the conversation. The online retailer has already secured the rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” beginning this fall, making it the first streaming service to exclusively air NFL games.

However, the NFL likes to diversify the places that fans can view games, charging as companies as possible for broadcasting rights. Currently, the NFL has broadcasting deals with Disney (for ESPN, ESPN+, and ABC), CBS, Fox, NBC, and Amazon, not to mention their in-house NFL Network.

Whichever streaming service — Prime Video, Apple TV, or potentially even ESPN+ — secures the rights to the Sunday Ticket, it will not be able to simply fold the games into their current subscription services as a way to entice football fans to sign up for the platform at large. Due to contracts with CBS and Fox — who broadcast the games that make up the Sunday Ticket offerings — the out-of-market package must maintain a “premium price,” as to avoid pulling too many customers away from the games broadcast locally on network affiliates.

Currently, Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV starts at $293.96 for the season, and the expectation is that the new home will at least maintain that price, especially considering that the price tag for the rights is expected to increase significantly. DIRECTV’s deal for the package costs the satellite company $1.5 billion per season and has been in place since 2014. However, the new deal is expected to cost the Sunday Ticket’s new home anywhere from $2B to $2.5B per season.

The NFL Sunday Ticket will not only become the cornerstone to its new home’s further expansion into live sports, but the package will also undoubtedly serve as the lynchpin in the platform’s efforts to carve out a growing share of the overall streaming market.

However, the NFL does not seem content to simply allow media partners to capitalize on cord-cutters’ needs for streaming football programming. In May, reports came to light that the league was planning on launching its own streaming platform called NFL+ (or perhaps NFL Plus, depending on how they style it). And on Friday, Goodell confirmed that the direct-to-consumer (DTC) service will be live ahead of the 2022 season.

The service is expected to cost $5 per month and will be the home of the league’s mobile streaming rights for live games. Previously fans could watch games on their phones and tablets for free on the NFL app and via Yahoo Sports and various cell phone carriers, but those deals have all expired allowing the league to move forward with its own streaming option. NFL+ is also expected to include radio broadcasts of games, podcasts, team-created content, and more.

The National Football League is without question the largest entity in all of broadcasting, both for traditional and streaming outlets. And while the bulk of its media rights won’t likely leave network channels any time in the foreseeable future, the league’s open-armed embrace of streaming is a clear sign of where not only football but likely all of sports media rights are eventually heading.

NFL Sunday Ticket

NFL Sunday Ticket is a subscription video streaming service that allows football fans to watch every live out-of-market NFL game on Sunday afternoons. It is included free for new DirecTV subscribers (allowing streaming through the NFL Sunday Ticket App), or it can be purchased as a standalone streaming product if you live in a dorm or apartment without access to the satellite version of NFL Sunday Ticket.

Unlike NFL RedZone, which bounces from game to game, Sunday Ticket is superior for fans who want to see every play of their favorite teams, even if they don’t live where the games are locally televised.

Sunday Ticket offers three plans: the Student Plan for $99.96 / año, the To Go Plan for $293.96 / año, and the Max Plan for $395.99 / año.

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