For as long as the NFL Sunday Ticket package has been available, it has been exclusive to DirecTV. That exclusivity, meanwhile, has provided DirecTV with a major part of its value proposition.
DirecTV’s exclusive contract with the NFL for Sunday Ticket – a package that allows subscribers to watch every game played by every team — is believed to be expiring after the 2022 season. There have been various indications that the league is looking to go in a different direction, either with a tech company or in a non-exclusive arrangement. Amazon has been mentioned as a possible partner with the NFL for Sunday Ticket.
Last week, another potential suitor surfaced for the package: Apple.
The tech news site The Information reported Friday that Apple has had “early talks” with the NFL about partnering on Sunday Ticket.
The report, which noted that Apple expressed interest and that it’s still early in the process, added that it was “a possible sign the tech giant is looking to beef up the audience for its Apple TV+ streaming service.” It also said that Apple is not the only company that has had such talks, and that some such discussions took place last week at the Allen & Company retreat in Idaho last week.
Among other potential bidders include Amazon and Disney, the owner of ESPN+, the site said. It isn’t clear what the NFL’s timetable is for determining what to do about Sunday Ticket.
Apple, since launching Apple TV+ in late 2019, has not made an effort to bid on major league sports rights, although it did hire an executive who formerly supervised sports programming for Amazon.
Reports in February indicated that Amazon had emerged as the favorite to become the new home of Sunday Ticket. When the NFL extended its overall broadcast deals earlier this year, it announced that Amazon Prime Video would become the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football.
The potential change comes as DirecTV has been declining in subscriptions for several years, with the NFL reportedly concluding that a satellite-only version of Sunday Ticket is too restrictive. After all, that exclusivity dates back to 1994, when the commercial Internet was at its down and streaming was far away.
AT&T spent the better part of a year attempting to sell off DirecTV, and ultimately, earlier this year, announced that it was spinning off the service into a new entity, which will be known as “New DirecTV.” TPG will own a stake in the new entity, although AT&T will retain majority ownership.
When AT&T first purchased DirecTV, the government made it a condition that the company extend its deal to make Sunday Ticket available.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.