Q. I know that DIRECTV won’t have the NFL Sunday Ticket for much longer. Do you think they will keep it after their contract expires? If not, who do you think will get it next? Will it be Comcast? — Peter, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Peter, you’re right. DIRECTV’s exclusive deal to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket expires after the 2022 season. With the satcaster shedding subscribers like threads from a cheap suit, it’s unlikely that it will even make a bid to continue carrying the package when the current pact expires. The odds that AT&T will soon sell either a minority or majority stake in DIRECTV increases the likelihood that it will take a hard pass in the next round of negotiations.
In the coming months, the NFL is expected to begin talks with companies interested in the Sunday Ticket, and other broadcast rights for regular season games. The league’s current TV contracts with networks such as ESPN, Fox and CBS are also scheduled to end after the 2022 season.
The NFL could decide to split up the Sunday Ticket so different companies could offer it in a variety of ways. (There are some lawyers who would suggest that would be wise.) For example, it could give the rights to two or three different pay TV companies, such as one cable or satellite service, and one streaming service.
The advantage here is that one company would not be forced to shell out so much money for the rights. If the league could determine that it would generate as much revenue with multiple Sunday Ticket providers, it might be inclined to go that way to keep anti-trust warriors in Washington at bay.
The NFL could also split up the package even further, giving the rights to single-team packages to multiple operators and the entire league to one. This can get complicated, though, and could reduce the revenue pie.
Regardless of what the NFL does, there are certain companies that would likely have a strong interest.
In past years, I have explained here that Comcast is not a logical choice for the Sunday Ticket because it does not offer service in every market. However, now that Comcast has the national streaming service, Peacock, that could change the company’s thinking. The cable/entertainment giant could add the Ticket to Peacock’s lineup of movies, sports and TV shows and instantly become a streaming powerhouse.
Comcast could also use the Sunday Ticket to help promote its sports lineup on other NBC-owned channels, which now includes Sunday Night Football on NBC and the Olympics on various networks. And it’s obvious that the package of football games would further bolster Comcast’s cable TV service in the markets it serves. (I see Comcast offering the Ticket on Peacock and cable TV.)
Comcast also has the money to bid successfully for either an exclusive or split version of the Sunday Ticket. With DIRECTV out of the way, it could theoretically outbid anyone if it chooses to do so.
Other companies that might go for the Sunday Ticket include Apple (for Apple TV+), Google (YouTube, YouTube TV), Amazon (Prime Video, etc.), Disney (ESPN, Disney+, etc.) and even Netflix, which to date has shown no interest in live sports. But Netflix is now looking at an increasingly crowded field and might decide the Sunday Ticket could be a separator in the coming years.
However, when you add up its assets and interests, I don’t think there’s any company that could benefit more from the Sunday Ticket than Comcast.
The TV Answer Man will monitor these negotiations in the coming months and report back here when developments occur.
Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann