The NFL’s partnership with DirecTV to carry NFL Sunday Ticket is set to expire at the end of this upcoming season, and the NFL is looking to explore the digital frontier by making streaming “extremely important” in future media deals. DirecTV is aware that it’s likely the NFL will be moving on to a new partner, with Rob Thun, DirecTV’s chief content officer stating, “The NFL … I don’t think they were interested in an exclusive relationship beyond the term of our underlying deal, “ during an interview with CNET.
Currently, DirecTV pays $1.5 billion per year for Sunday Ticket, but the NFL is expected to land between $2 and $2.5 billion per year in its next deal. With the league making a streaming product, it’s expected to have a number of bidders for its out-of-market game package. In theory, the new rights holder could lease out Sunday Ticket to a satellite provider like DirecTV. Amazon, Apple, Disney, Comcast, and Paramount are expected to make a play for the package but fans want to know which streaming service is most likely to cross the goal line with Sunday Ticket in hand. Below is the case for each service.
Paramount’s CBS is one of the NFL’s oldest partners with the broadcast network carrying games since 1956. During that 66-year run, the only time CBS hasn’t aired NFL games was from 1994 to 1997, and the network is the current home of the American Football Conference. As part of Paramount’s latest multi-platform deal with the NFL, the company pays the league around $2.1 billion per season to broadcast games on TV and stream games on Paramount+. The NFL is a big money-maker for CBS, as America’s Most Watched Network led all networks in advertising revenue from streaming platforms this past season. Even with the 2022 AFC Championship Game being the most-streamed non-Super Bowl game of all time on Paramount+, the streaming platform appears to be a dark horse to get Sunday Ticket.
Comcast’s NBC has been a partner of the NFL’s from as early as 1939 and had a three-decade run as the home of the AFC before losing their contract to CBS. Now, the Peacock Network is the home of Sunday Night Football after agreeing to pay the league $1.71 billion per year during last year’s rights deal. Peacock is the streaming home of SNF, and could be in the mix to land Sunday Ticket, but insiders do not view it as a “serious competitor.” Although, when asked about Sunday Ticket in the past, NBC chairman Pete Bevacqua has said that NBC is “interested in any kind of conversation with the NFL where we can deepen our partnership with them.”
Of all of the legacy media companies, Disney has shown the most interest in adding Sunday Ticket to ESPN+. Disney’s ESPN is the home of Monday Night Football, ESPN2 and ESPN+ air the ManningCast, and the network struck a deal with the league for around $2.7 billion per year, which allows the Super Bowls in 2026 and 2030 to stream on ESPN+, along with the ESPN/ABC broadcast. Earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed his company is interested in placing a bid on the Sunday Ticket package, which gives the company the strongest case to land Sunday Ticket among traditional/legacy media conglomerates.
Apple TV+ (Apple)
Unlike the aforementioned legacy media companies, tech companies are the undoubted favorites to land Sunday Ticket. Apple has shown interest in the past in adding NFL Sunday Ticket to Apple TV+. With a market cap that exceeds 2 trillion dollars, Apple’s value cannot be underestimated, and the NFL has reportedly wanted Sunday Ticket to go to Apple for a few months now. Apple has the infrastructure in place with millions of people owning iPhones, iPads, and other products within the Apple ecosystem. On top of that, the tech giant is reportedly planning to spend billions on live sports over the next four years, and NFL Sunday Ticket would be the crown jewel of them all.
Prime Video (Amazon)
Amazon may not have pockets as deep as Apple but the tech behemoth has the potential to secure Sunday Ticket for Prime Video. The company made history by securing the NFL’s first all-digital package, which will make Prime Video the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football beginning this upcoming season. Like Apple, Amazon has been named a “front runner” for Sunday Ticket within the last year, but unlike Apple, Amazon’s existing relationship with the league could prove to be the difference-maker. The company is expected to be the favorite to land a 49% stake in NFL Media, which includes NFL RedZone and NFL Network. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that Sunday Ticket “could be included” in the NFL Media deal. If Apple offers the league a price that Amazon refuses to match then that could be the difference between which tech giant crosses the endzone with Sunday Ticket.