Q. I read that DIRECTV is losing the NFL Sunday Ticket. Is that true? If so, I will be throwing my satellite dish in the trash! — Donnie, Mobile, Alabama.
Whoa, Donnie. The NFL Sunday Ticket isn’t going anywhere, at least not in the next few years, if then.
Here’s the deal.
DIRECTV signed an eight-year agreement with the NFL for the exclusive rights to the Sunday Ticket, which, as you know, includes all Sunday afternoon games. The deal, which was signed for a reported $1.5 billion, runs through the 2022 season.
However, Pro Football Talk, a web site owned by NBC Sports, reported over the weekend that the NFL has an op-out clause that would allow it to terminate DIRECTV’s contract after the 2019 season.
“The league has the power to pull the plug on the Sunday Ticket arrangement with DirecTV. If exercised, the contract would expire after the 2019 regular season,” writes Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who adds that the league has yet to make a decision.
However, before you start preparing your trash can to receive one pizza-sized satellite dish, a few things about Florio’s report.
1. Florio’s article is apparently based on a single source. That doesn’t mean it’s not true, but the league has not publicly confirmed it has an opt-out clause, or that it might exercise it if it does. AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, has also not confirmed that it could lose the exclusive arrangement after the 2019 season.
2. Even if there is an opt-out clause, there’s a reason why DIRECTV won the rights in the first place. The satellite TV service, which has owned the exclusive rights to the Sunday Ticket since its inception in 1994, arguably could (and still can not) afford to lose the popular sports package and therefore made a bid ($1.5 billion) in 2015 that the league could not refuse.
With the advance of live streaming services, and cord-cutting, since 2015, DIRECTV needs the Ticket more than ever to keep subscribers from defecting. If the league decided to opt-out after 2019, you can bet that AT&T would spend every available penny to keep it. And we all know that AT&T has lots of pennies.
Now that’s not to say that some tech giant couldn’t step in and make an even more irresistible offer. (Florio is betting on it, in fact.) But it says here that it’s questionable that even a deep-pocketed company such as Amazon or Google would be willing to spend billions for a single sports package, no matter how attractive it may be. DIRECTV simply needs it more.
The odds that a tech company would outbid AT&T/DIRECTV get slimmer with each passing year, too, with many fans turning to the Red Zone Channel as an alternative to the Sunday Ticket. The sports package isn’t as valuable as it once was.
So, Donnie, I think your Ticket is safe for many years to come.
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— Phillip Swann