Disney CEO Bob Chapek yesterday repeated that his company is “in discussions” with the National Football League to acquire at least a portion of the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract, most likely as a feature for its ESPN+ streaming service.
Following release of the company’s first quarter report yesterday, Chapek and other Disney executives took questions from financial analysts. In response to an inquiry about the Sunday Ticket, Chapek said:
“You mentioned Sunday Ticket and that’s something that we’re in conversations with and we’re considering and we’re thinking about it,” he responded. “Obviously, it’s an attractive property, but we’ll only do it just like our other rights, if it is something that adds shareholder value. And that’s the filter that we’ll continue to look for. And we’re really happy with, frankly, the deals that we’ve got in terms of representing things that are accretive to our shareholders so far. And we’ll take that same approach going forward.”
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In March, the NFL announced a series of new television deals which included agreements for Amazon, CBS, NBC and Disney (which owns ESPN) for Sunday and weeknight game broadcasts. At the time, ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro was asked about the next Sunday Ticket contract. (DIRECTV holds the exclusive rights to the Ticket for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but the league is expected this year to soon award a contract for 2023 and beyond.)
Pitaro said ESPN and Disney would be interested in discussing the Sunday Ticket “when those talks start up.”
Now Chapek has confirmed that those discussions have begun, and that Disney remains interested. Amazon, Comcast and AT&T could also be bidders for the next contract which could include a streaming rights holder as well as a traditional pay TV distributor such as DIRECTV, soon to be a new separate company owned by AT&T and private equity firm, TPG.
It is unknown when the NFL will award the next Sunday Ticket contract.
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— Phillip Swann