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Amazon, Apple, Disney Still Waiting on ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ Decision; Winner Must Maintain ‘Premium Price’ for Package

Matt Tamanini

Everyone in the broadcasting world is seemingly waiting for the biggest domino of them all to fall as three of the world’s largest companies await word on who will secure the NFL Sunday Ticket package beginning in 2023. For months, there have been reports that Amazon and Apple were the leading contenders to land the out-of-market package, with Disney also in the mix, and some even believe that Apple has already quietly landed the rights.

However, according to CNBC’s Alex Sherman and Jessica Golden, all three mega-companies are still waiting on word from the NFL as to which one will be bestowed the honor of paying at least $2 billion per year for the right to broadcast the games. The league’s current deal with DIRECTV for the package expires at the end of the coming season, so the NFL is reportedly in no rush to make or announce a decision that won’t go into effect until September 2023. However, since the deal is reportedly for more than just the Sunday Ticket, the decision has become more complicated than it would be if it was just for the single package of games.

In addition to the Sunday Ticket rights, a stake in NFL Media — the company that runs NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NFL.com, and other ancillary NFL brands — is part of the current negotiations, something that Apple has reportedly been eager to land. CNBC’s sources indicate that if the new deal was simply for the Sunday Ticket, a decision likely would have been made by now.

However, with the NFL launching its own streaming service next month, it is believed that NFL+ could be a part of the deal. Following the announcement that Apple TV+ would be launching a standalone streamer for Major League Soccer as part of a 10-year deal, it could be a blueprint for what the tech company has in mind for future plans with the NFL.

Despite whatever plans any of the broadcasters might have for football’s future if they secure the Sunday Ticket rights, they will be a bit hamstrung by agreements that the league already has in place with its network partners that dictate how — and for how much — the premium package can be made available to customers.

The games available to watch out-of-market via NFL Sunday Ticket are those that air on local CBS and Fox affiliates on Sunday afternoons; the NBC Sunday night game, ESPN and ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” and Prime Video’s new Thursday night exclusive games are not part of the package, as they are broadcast nationally. Therefore, in the contracts that the league has with CBS and Fox, it agrees that whichever outlet owns the Sunday Ticket rights will maintain it at “a premium price” in order to ensure that the out-of-market package doesn’t steal away too many viewers from the games broadcast locally.

Therefore, whichever company lands Sunday Ticket will not be able to make it an included feature on their relatively inexpensive subscription services; so the package cannot be a free feature on Prime Video, Apple TV+, or ESPN+. However, that doesn’t mean that the Sunday Ticket’s new home will not be a cost-saving option for consumers.

Last season, DIRECTV charged a base $293.96 for the Sunday Ticket on top of monthly satellite subscription fees. However, in the new agreement, rights holders are not expected to be obligated to require a separate subscription on top of the fee for the out-of-market package. Therefore, customers are expected to be able to subscribe to Sunday Ticket on its own, leading to substantial potential monthly savings.

Despite not bidding on the rights, DIRECTV is still angling to maintain a piece of the Sunday Ticket business. The satellite company is hoping to negotiate a carve-out with the eventual rights holders to keep its partnerships with bars and restaurants to broadcast the package and to make the games available to DIRECTV customers while turning over all of the added subscription fees directly to Amazon, Apple, or Disney.

The NFL’s decision will be a massive win for whichever company ends up securing the rights and could have far-reaching impacts throughout the streaming world. With Amazon being the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football” beginning this fall and Disney having long aired games on ESPN and ABC, many analysts believe that Apple is the likely home for NFL Sunday Ticket, as the league has demonstrated in the past a propensity to diversify its rights distribution.

Following the launch of Apple TV+’s Friday night baseball package and its decade-long deal with MLS, the tech giant is making a huge play for live sports rights to add to its growing streaming service. Once the NFL announces its new Sunday Ticket partner, many dominos are likely to fall across the broadcasting landscape and three of the largest companies in the world are hoping that they fall in their favor.

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 / jaar, the To Go Plan for $293.96 / jaar, and the Max Plan for $395.99 / jaar.

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