Report: Several ‘Influential Owners’ Pushback on NFL Media Sale Amid NFL’s Direct-To-Consumer Goals

Several influential owners may sack the NFL’s ambitious goal of selling a stake in NFL Media, according to a report from Ben Fischer and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. The league has previously stated that “streaming is extremely important” for future media deals; however, during last month’s NFL owners’ meeting in Florida, NFL Cheif Media and Business Officer Brian Rolapp addressed the media regarding the league’s plans, with SBJ reporting the following:

The skeptical owners worry about the permanence of selling off an ownership stake, even a small one, at a time when the media business is experiencing huge shifts. They view their total control over valuable media assets in such an uncertain media world as a unique strategic advantage, possibly more valuable than the likely return of an equity transaction.

Amazon has been a reported frontrunner to acquire a 49% stake in NFL Media and its assets which include NFL.com, NFL Network, NFL app, NFL Films, and more. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that NFL Sunday Ticket “might” be included in a future NFL Media sale. Many streamers and traditional media companies are interested in securing the NFL’s out-of-market game package for their platforms since the league’s current deal with DIRECTV is ending with “semi-certainty.”

Even with the DIRECTV deal coming to an end at the conclusion of the upcoming season, Rolapp and the company haven’t set a deadline on when the NFL Media or Sunday Ticket transactions will happen.

“This isn’t a process where you’re selling a company and you set a deadline and run an option,” Rolapp said at the owners’ meeting. “It’s the complete opposite of that. It’s more about how do we think of the next 15-20 years, so that necessitates a much different type of thinking and process.”

Apple is another tech giant that is reportedly interested in acquiring a stake in NFL Media. The tech behemoth is looking to go on a spending spree to bring more live sports to Apple TV+ and if they are able to bundle Sunday Ticket and NFL Media with mobile live game streaming then they would become one of the league’s biggest partners.

With the league still negotiating deals, nothing has been finalized and it is possible that the league could branch off NFL Films from the NFL Media sale, which could open the door for Netflix to gain an equity state in NFL Films. NFL owners, coaches, and executives have taken notice of how popular Formula 1 has become after the racing league’s Drive to Survive series became a hit on Netflix and would love to duplicate that success with NFL Films’ content.

During the owners’ meeting, the idea of an NFL+ direct-to-consumer streaming platform was discussed, which “would include games, radio, podcasts, and team content.” The service is still in development and nothing has been finalized yet, but the hypothetical price point was reported to be $5 per month. The owners are still discussing if all 32 teams will have content on the platform, or if each team would have its own, but the league has taken notice of the digital frontier, from the SBJ report:

The league’s goal is to become more direct-to-consumer, Rolapp said. The NFL craves the user data that’s generated in a digital environment. Importantly, the league considers distribution of NFL content on third party services or platforms to still be direct-to-consumer, Rolapp said.

The league’s owners will likely discuss the future of NFL Media at the next league meeting which could give fans more insight into NFL+. The influential owners who are against selling a stake in NFL Media have not been named, but if all 32 can get on board with the idea then they all will reap the benefits as the league continues its digital transition.