Q. I know DIRECTV has an exclusive contract to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket, but when does that agreement end? I’ve read it’s after the 2021 season and I’ve read it’s after the 2022 season. Do you know which it is? I have DIRECTV to get the Sunday Ticket, but I might get rid of it if it doesn’t have it. — Larry, Evanston, Illinois.
Larry, that’s a great question. In October 2014, DIRECTV signed a new contract with the National Football League to exclusively carry the NFL Sunday Ticket, the league’s package of ‘out-of-market’ Sunday afternoon games. The pact extended DIRECTV’s exclusive rights to the plan, which it’s had since 1994. (In the early years, you could also get the games on a C-band dish, but no pay TV provider besides DIRECTV has ever been able to offer the popular plan.)
But this is where it gets tricky. When the NFL and DIRECTV announced the new agreement in 2014, it said it was a ‘multi-year’ deal, but it did not specify the number of years. Several news organizations, citing anonymous sources, said the new agreement was for eight years. They also reported that the old agreement was scheduled to end after the 2014 season.
If those multiple news reports were correct, the eight years would take DIRECTV’s deal through the 2022 season. But we don’t know that for sure. Sports Business Journal recently wrote that the contract will end after the 2021 season while ESPN has written that it ends after the 2022 season.
I’ve seen both years used in other publications as well. So I asked AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly today if it’s 2021 or 2022. His response:
“We don’t discuss the terms of contracts.”
That’s not going to help.
Complicating this issue even further are reports .that AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, and the NFL have opt-outs in the contract that would allow one or the other to exit early under certain conditions. We don’t know if those opt-outs are real. But if they are, we don’t know if they are still viable or whether their deadlines have passed.
My educated guess is that the current contract will continue through the 2022 season. Several reliable news organizations reported in 2014 that the new pact was for eight years — and that the old agreement ended after the 2014 season — so I’m betting that they were right. If just one or two publications said that, well, who knows? But they all can’t be wrong, right?
The bigger question now is whether AT&T will retain the exclusivity after the 2022 season, or will it allow a digital company such as Amazon or Google to buy the streaming portion of the package? Or, will a communications giant such as Comcast buy the whole thing for its Peacock streaming service, and its cable TV subscribers?
You can read more about that here.
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— Phillip Swann