Report: NFL’s Sunday Ticket Relationship with DirecTV is Ending with “Semi-Certainty”

As the NFL shifts its focus for the future by making NFL Sunday Ticket a streaming product, the “only semi-certainty” is that league’s near three-decade-long relationship with DirecTV is coming to an end, according to a report by Mike Florio from ProFootball Talk. The league’s Sunday Ticket contract with the satellite TV provider expires at the end of the 2022 season, and the NFL has stated that “streaming is extremely important” in future media deals. 

With the league committed to digital media, if a tech company acquires rights to Sunday Ticket, Florio’s report details how fans in rural areas may be able to watch via satellite:

However it’s structured, it will be a streaming service, first and foremost. Although it seemed possible that the NFL would retain DirecTV as the satellite provider and sell the streaming rights to a tech company, it now appears (per a source with knowledge of the dynamics) that the league will sell the whole package to a tech company, which then may break off satellite rights to be sold only to consumers (typically, very rural) who lack access to the kind of Internet service needed for reliable streaming. That could be DirecTV, it could be Dish Network, it could be both, and it could be neither.

DirecTV currently pays $1 billion per year for Sunday Ticket, but if a tech company were to bid for rights, the NFL could be asking between $2 and $2.5 billion per year.  However, it could be triple that amount with Florio’s report stating “the winning bidder could pay as much as $7.5 billion per year,” which was a number PFT was “unable to nail down.”

As the NFL continues to tackle the digital world, NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell hasn’t ruled out the possibility of including Sunday Ticket in a future NFL Media sale. Amazon has been linked as a possible suitor for Sunday Ticket, and it was reported that the tech behemoth had taken the lead in a bid for a 49% stake of the NFL’s Media properties, which include NFL Network, NFL RedZone, and NFL.com. After acquiring the NFL’s first all-digital package, by becoming the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football beginning next season, Amazon has the infrastructure to become the home of out-of-market games with Sunday Ticket.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek stated his company will be bidding on Sunday Ticket rights. Apple, which is reportedly looking to spend billions on live sports, is expected to enter the fray for NFL streaming rights. During last season, it was reported that the NFL wanted Sunday Ticket rights to go to Apple.

With many platforms interested in the product, the NFL could rethink the way Sunday Ticket is structured by giving fans more options and packages with Florio’s report stating the following:

It’s also unclear whether the package will continue to consist of one option — buy it all, or buy none of it. There has been talk of a more flexible approach, with consumers able to buy packages tailored to a specific team or a specific weekend.

This is similar to how NBA League Pass is structured, as it gives fans the opportunity to either watch their favorite out-of-market team with Team Pass, or the whole league. The NFL could also distribute Sunday Ticket streaming rights to multiple partners, similar to how FOX and CBS  have NFC, and AFC rights, respectively.

With cord cutters accounting for over 70% of people who were streaming the Super Bowl, it’s now or never for the NFL to find a streaming home for Sunday Ticket before the 2022 season kicks off.