NFL close to deal with YouTube for rights to Sunday tickets

The NFL is close to a deal to take the highly sought-after Sunday Ticket out of the market game bundle into Google’s YouTube, a source close to the NFL confirmed to the athlete. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report this news. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The deal will end DirecTV’s nearly 30-year run with the package, and confirm sports’ transition to streaming.
  • The NFL was seeking north of $2.0 billion annually.
  • Apple had been the frontrunner for some time, but left the negotiation weeks early.

the background

The deal, which still has to be voted on by the owners, ends the long reign of DirecTV, which launched the package in 1994, giving fans who reside outside of their favorite team’s market the ability to watch games. The NFL and Google declined to comment.

The deal would mark another major inflection point in the media, with a major sports property moving from a traditional carrier to a live broadcast. Ironically, in the early 1990s DirecTV was seen as pioneering the satellite service. Now the hot medium is losing out on the sport.

YouTube and Google’s YouTube TV can use Sunday Ticket to beat their subscription business. The amount paid by Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, could not be determined. DirecTV was paying an average of $1.5 billion annually, and the NFL was looking for at least $1.0 billion.

But it is not clear if the league has gained this much importance. Sunday Ticket has fallen in value for many with many national windows bundling games from Thursday Night Football – now on Amazon Prime – to the Christmas games and the third Thanksgiving Day game.

It should also be noted if the deal includes a cut for bars and restaurants to be sold separately. Amazon is licensing DirecTV’s Thursday Night Football to bars and restaurants, which would generally struggle to broadcast the games. So it’s possible DirecTV could keep cutting the Sunday ticket through this route.

Apple has been the frontrunner and coveted candidate in the NFL for some time, but has been unable to agree on contract language and recently backed out of talks.

Details remain

Lots of details need to be filled in: How much will YouTube charge for Sunday Ticket, will it only sell packages for one team, single games? Need a subscription to YouTube TV or YouTube Premium, an ad-free $11.99 per month video site platform?

The prices will be great because it’s no secret that financially DirecTV has lost badly on the service, with some accounts reaching two million subscribers, many of whom were heavily discounted. DirecTV charged a base rate of $300 to $400 per season, which isn’t nearly enough to account for the $1.5 billion average annual payout to the NFL. DirecTV saw the package as a loss-leader because it got customers in the door, and YouTube Sunday Ticket likely viewers.

The move would clearly meet the NFL’s goal of making the Sunday Ticket more accessible; Subscribing to YouTube Premium and then Sunday Ticket would be a lot easier than getting satellite (DirecTV offered the option to stream in those areas where satellite dishes couldn’t be used).

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(Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

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