Q. I read your story about DIRECTV possibly losing the NFL Sunday Ticket after the 2019 season. Do you think Comcast could get it? I would stay with them forever if they did. — Ben, Miami.
Ben, Sports Business Journal and a few other publications have reported that the National Football League could opt-out of its eight-year agreement with DIRECTV to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket following the 2019 season. There is no indication from the league that it will opt-out, but the temptation of lucrative bids from new streaming services such as Amazon looms large. The NFL could wind up making even more money for the popular package of out-of-market Sunday games than it has from its $12 billion agreement with DIRECTV.
But what about Comcast, you ask? After all, the nation’s largest cable operator has deep pockets, too, so why wouldn’t it bid for the Ticket?
That’s an interesting question because Comcast has flirted with the idea in past renewal negotiations. Company executives have lamented publicly that DIRECTV’s exclusive hold on the Ticket gives it an unfair advantage and therefore it might consider making its own bid someday.
However, I don’t see that happening this time, if the league decides to opt-out. Why? Two reasons.
1. Unlike DIRECTV (or a live streaming service), Comcast does not have a national footprint, meaning it does not serve the entire nation. (For example, Charter has the cable franchise rights in New York and Los Angeles.) While it has more than 20 million video subscribers, which is similar to DIRECTV, the inability to market the Ticket to non-Comcast areas would make the package less attractive to advertisers.
In addition, Comcast would not be able to use national marketing campaigns to lure potential subscribers to the Ticket because viewers in many markets would be unable to sign up.
2. The Ticket’s value has diminished somewhat over the years due largely to the proliferation of the Red Zone Channel. Many cable operators (and Dish) now carry the Red Zone Channel which offers live look-ins at games during pivotal moments. For some fans, particularly fantasy football players, this is almost as good as having the Ticket.
So while Comcast might find the Ticket tempting once again if it becomes available, I don’t foresee the cable operator getting involved in what would be an exceedingly high-priced auction for the its rights.
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— Phillip Swann
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