Google Reportedly Enters Bidding for NFL Sunday Ticket; Could Out-of-Market Games Air on YouTube in 2023?
Live sports rights have been the cornerstone of broadcasting portfolios for generations, and there is no more valuable sport in the United States than the NFL. With deals with CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC and ESPN, Prime Video, and DIRECTV, the most popular league in the country has essentially allocated its rights to every imaginable outlet with one major package still to find a new home when its current deal with DIRECTV expires following the upcoming season: the NFL Sunday Ticket.
While most onlookers felt like they had a fairly firm grasp on the negotiations as recently as last week, according to a New York Times' report over the weekend, there has been a late addition to the Sunday Ticket bidding: Google. The paper of record said that YouTube has entered the fray alongside the long-rumored Apple and Amazon.
For months, Apple was believed to be the leader, despite the fact that the reported price tag had ballooned from the $1.5 billion per year that DIRECTV is currently paying to $2.5B moving forward. That hefty sum reportedly pushed Disney out of contention, meaning that the out-of-market package will not be available on ESPN+, despite NFL commissioner Roger Goodell indicating earlier this month that he believes that Sunday Ticket will be on streaming come the fall of 2023.
With three of the largest and most profitable tech companies in the world now apparently bidding on the games, this could be an opportunity for the NFL to ask even more for the games, especially if the Sunday Ticket is packaged with a stake in NFL Media, the league’s arm that oversees NFL RedZone, NFL Network, NFL Films, NFL.com, and the soon to launch NFL+.
Prime Video is already becoming the exclusive home for “Thursday Night Football” this season, so adding the Sunday Ticket — and potentially a major part of NFL Media — would make them the preeminent streaming home of the league. However, if past is prologue when it comes to the league, the NFL very well might look to add yet another deep pocket to their incredible stable of media partners.
Last month, Apple signed a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer to broadcast every single game featuring an MLS team primarily on a new standalone streaming service for the next decade, with Apple TV+ subscribers having access to a small selection of games as part of their plans and some matches airing for free on the Apple TV app. Some have posited that this could be the blueprint for how Apple could approach the Sunday Ticket and NFL Media rights should they land them, especially as the streamer is actively enhancing its sports-watching features after only airing its first live game in April with the start of the Major League Baseball season.
In Google’s favor, earlier this month, YouTube TV announced that it had essentially crossed the 5 million subscriber threshold, presumably making it the largest live TV streaming service in the U.S. The NYT report did not indicate whether Sunday Ticket would be available exclusively to YouTube TV subscribers should Google win the bidding — in a similar model to how DIRECTV has handled the package since its launch in 1995 — or if anyone, regardless of whether or not they subscriber to the streamer will have the ability to purchase the package.
No matter what streaming service lands the Sunday Ticket rights, it will still remain a pretty high-priced add-on, as the NFL’s contracts with CBS and FOX — who air the games that comprise the Sunday Ticket offerings — require it to be a premium subscription package as to not overly cannibalize the games airing on the local affiliates.
For months, the momentum appeared to be moving in Apple’s favor when it came to the NFL Sunday Ticket, and that very well might still be the case, but with the introduction of Google into the proceedings, the battle over the package’s rights between now and when the league believes it will finalize a deal this fall could be just as thrilling as the games themselves and could come down to the final whistle.
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 on YouTube or YouTube TV.
If you use YouTube TV as your live TV provider, you’ll save $100 off the package price.
Users can choose to add NFL RedZone, which bounces from game to game. But 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.