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Disney ‘Considering’ Bid For NFL Sunday Ticket Rights

Ben Bowman

The clock is ticking on the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package, and Disney might swoop in to claim it for ESPN+. During Disney’s Q2 investor call, CEO Bob Chapek said the company is “in conversations” regarding the package and leaders are “considering” it.

Around the time the most recent NFL deal was announced, an overeager radio DJ announced that the Sunday Ticket package would be moving to ESPN+. But as time wore on, there was no confirmation of that rumor.

The current DirecTV contract for NFL Sunday Ticket — which carries two separate elements, one for satellite TV viewers and one for viewers who are streaming content — expires in 2022. While every other NFL property is locked up in a 10-year deal beginning in 2023, Sunday Ticket is the orphan among them.

When the service launched in 1994, NFL Sunday Ticket was the equivalent of an atom bomb in the sports world. For the first time, fans anywhere in the country could watch every game in the NFL, as long as they had a satellite dish. As streaming has taken off, however, the need for satellite service has fallen off in most parts of the country. The rise of NFL RedZone also provides a more fast-paced way to keep up with the league.

On top of all of this, DirecTV owner AT&T seems to have soured on the service, selling off 30% of the company to a private equity firm. As AT&T focuses more on AT&T TV and HBO Max, they may not have the appetite for a deal that primarily benefits its satellite subscribers.

Disney has shown a willingness to compete for live sports rights, and announced two more deals today - an extension of its MLB deal and an agreement to broadcast the soccer games of LaLiga.

Chapek said Disney would only make the deal for Sunday Ticket if it provided shareholder value, so stay tuned.

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