According to one industry insider, Apple might have already secured the most sought-after rights package in all of broadcasting and is just waiting for the most opportune time to announce it. In a Q&A article for Puck News, the entertainment news outlet’s founding partner Matthew Belloni said that while his sources are telling him that Apple is in the driver’s seat to secure the NFL Sunday Ticket rights beginning in the fall of 2023, others are saying that the deal is already done.
“One source told me this weekend that the deal is actually done,” Belloni wrote, “and is being kept quiet at Apple’s request, which I haven’t confirmed and don’t know for a fact; Apple isn’t commenting.”
If this is in fact true, it would line up with how Apple likes to dole out information. Despite reports abounding for months, Apple CEO Tim Cook chose to hold the announcement of Major League Baseball coming to Apple TV+ for one of their previously scheduled keynote presentations.
With DIRECTV holding the rights for one more season, there is no rush for Apple to announce a deal, especially one that could cost north of $2 billion per season. For what it’s worth, Apple’s next event will be an online Worldwide Developers Conference from June 6-10, though that is generally focused exclusively on the tech side of Apple’s business, so it’s not likely that a major programming announcement would happen then; but then again, it’s the NFL, so who knows?
Last month, reports indicated that Apple was interested in securing not only the Sunday Ticket rights, but all of the NFL’s outstanding broadcast rights, including Sunday Ticket, mobile streaming rights, and an equity stake in NFL Media. However, those efforts might have taken a bit of a hit after rumors began circulating that the league was considering launching its own streaming service and that Netflix might be securing the NFL Films archive, which falls under the NFL Media umbrella.
The other major, deep-pocketed contenders for Sunday Ticket have reportedly been Amazon and Disney, but with Amazon being the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football,” and Disney’s ESPN and ABC sharing rights to “Monday Night Football,” it would follow the league’s M.O. to bring in a completely new platform for its content.
The NFL has long looked to diversify where fans can find its content, so adding a partnership with the world’s largest company would make sense. If Apple TV+ does become the NFL’s newest broadcast, the question then becomes how the streamer will price the football package. Their new MLB deal is included with the standard $4.99 per month subscription, but it would seem unlikely that Apple would continue that practice with Sunday Ticket included; but this is Apple after all, and they often have different economic goalposts than other companies.
The streamer’s baseball package only includes two games per week, while the NFL package would allow fans to watch all out-of-market games. Currently on DIRECTV, the Sunday Ticket’s To Go plan costs $73.49 per month during the season or $293.96 for the season while their Max Plan — which also includes NFL RedZone and DIRECTV’s Fantasy Zone — runs $99 per month and $395.99 for the season.
If Apple wanted to make one of those options available to all subscribers, it would undoubtedly require an increase in their monthly subscription fee, or the more likely option is that they would keep the monthly fee at the low $4.99 level and make Sunday Ticket available for an add-on price. The question then becomes, how much does the streamer charge for the a la carte option? With a potential increase in the package’s cost from the $1.5 billion per year that DIRECTV is currently paying to $2-$2.5 billion that Apple (or whoever ends up securing the package), they would need to dramatically increase the subscriber base.
However, Apple TV+ has been open about its strategy of using high-quality, high-cost content as a way to bring people to the platform, and there is no bigger bait in the broadcast world than 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 / year, the To Go Plan for $293.96 / year, and the Max Plan for $395.99 / year.