Could Warner Bros. Discovery Swoop In and Grab NFL Sunday Ticket for HBO Max?
Could one of sports media’s juggernauts finally dive into the NFL after decades without it? One sports media insider seems to think so. According to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, Warner Bros. Discovery could be in the running for the expiring NFL Sunday Ticket rights, which would give the duo a powerful sports entity to add to its expanding catalog, just in time for the merger to finish.
HBO Max is already the home to Champions League and other live sports in Latin American markets, and Discovery’s Eurosport has Olympic rights in much of Europe.
According to incoming CEO David Zaslav, the WarnerMedia/Discovery merger remains on pace for closing by the middle of 2022. The idea of adding NFL coverage to the incoming Warner Bros. Discovery library could present a serious problem for their competitors, the other streaming media giants.
Marchand believes Warner Bros. Discovery could be in play as its former half, WarnerMedia, made a serious attempt at recieving the Premier League rights but ultimately fell short to Comcast/NBCUniversal. WarnerMedia also recently added the NHL to its sports offerings, which mostly consisted of NBA basketball, MLB baseball, and select golf events.
The other bidders include Amazon and ESPN+, who Marchand says remain “the digital favorites,” but says that we can’t rule out Paramount+ and Peacock. The parent companies of both services, ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal, respectively, own NFL broadcasting rights just like Amazon and ESPN and have had long relationships with the NFL, too.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the company is “in discussion” with the NFL in advance of the league’s Sunday Ticket rights deal ending with DirecTV in 2022. “We are in discussions and negotiations with the NFL for those rights,” Chapek said. “We think they would make a particularly good addendum, if you will, for our ESPN+ service given the nature of what they are… We’re very bullish on sports.”
Of course, still included in all of this is DIRECTV, which would love to partner NFL Sunday Ticket with its rebranded DIRECTV Stream service. While the league’s current deal with DIRECTV isn’t as “digitally-focused” as they would like for a future deal, any further discussions will likely revolve around DIRECTV Stream, which could present an opportunity for the league’s current NFL Sunday Ticket rightsholder to reclaim these hotly-contested rights.