Back in July, Roger Goodell said that the NFL Sunday Ticket package was heading from DirecTV to one of the streaming services, and that a deal was expected to be in place “by the fall.” On the eve of the winter solstice, it now appears that the commissioner nailed his earlier prediction, with a few hours to spare.
On Tuesday night, a source confirmed to Sportico that the NFL was on the verge of signing over the out-of-market games slate to Google’s YouTube, with an official announcement expected to come as early as Wednesday morning. In locking down a deal with the platform, which each month delivers video to a global base of 2.67 billion active users, the league has engineered sports media’s most high-profile shift from linear TV to streaming.
News of the looming deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Details pertaining to the cost and duration of the deal were unavailable at the time of publication, although the NFL was said to have been looking for a significant annual rate increase, with some observers saying that the asking price in the summer was well over $3 billion per season. Under the terms of its October 2014 renewal with the league, DirecTV agreed to a 50% rate hike, signing off on a commitment to pay an average fee of $1.5 billion per year through the end of this season.
While Sunday Ticket for many years served as a key differentiator for the pay-TV service, the acceleration of cord cutting—as of the end of the third quarter, DirecTV’s sub base is at an 18-year low—and the NFL’s jacked-up fees have left the sat-caster hemorrhaging money. In a statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in September 2021, former DirecTV owner AT&T said it would pay up to $2.1 billion in losses stemming from the Sunday Ticket contract as part of its $15 billion spinoff of the satellite-TV asset.
Aside from fundamental deal points on price and the length of the new contract, the particulars of the NFL’s plan to sell off a stake in its homegrown media platforms remain up in the air.
Apple had been the perceived frontrunner in the Sunday Ticket sweepstakes until late last week, when word began circulating that the tech giant couldn’t square its distribution plans with that of the NFL. In a bid to drive subscribers to its Apple TV+ platform, which is a relative steal at $6.99 per month, the tech giant was said to be fixated on offering Sunday Ticket via its streaming service at no additional charge. That proved to be a bridge too far for the league, as such an affordable premium would only serve to undermine the interests of its Sunday afternoon broadcast partners at CBS and Fox.
For its part, Google is expected to slot Sunday Ticket on its YouTube TV skinny bundle. A monthly subscription to the online cable alternative costs $64.99.