TV Answer Man, is there anything going on with the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract? I know DIRECTV still has it, but will they be able to keep it? Will the NFL make a decision soon? It will make a big difference on whether I keep DIRECTV. — Charlie, Green Bay. 

Charlie, DIRECTV’s contract with the NFL to exclusively carry the NFL Sunday Ticket is scheduled to continue for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. However, league officials have acknowledged that they are talking to multiple companies about offering the popular package of out-of-market games starting in 2023 when the current deal expires.

ESPN executives have said publicly they are interested in offering the Ticket, and Amazon, Comcast and perhaps Google and Apple could bid for the next contract as well.

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Plus, AT&T, which plans to spin off DIRECTV as a separate company later this year, with a private equity firm, TPG, holding a 30 percent stake, could be in the mix, too. While some journalists and industry analysts have dismissed DIRECTV as being interested beyond 2022, I think the satcaster is in play for the next agreement.

That may like a lot of companies in competition. However, unlike the previous Sunday Ticket contracts, this one might be shared by multiple companies. For instance, ESPN could own the streaming rights for its ESPN+ service while DIRECTV could offer it to the traditional cable/satellite audience, which includes homes, bars and restaurants. By breaking the Ticket up, the league could generate more revenue, and make it available to more people.

Now to your question: Is there anything new?

Not really. League and company officials have been silent in recent weeks on the Ticket topic, which shouldn’t be a major surprise. While negotiations may be proceeding, the NFL isn’t under pressure to make a decision anytime soon. DIRECTV is still in place for 2021 and 2022 so the league has time to sort out the details.

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That said, I would expect an announcement sometime this year, but it could be later in the year than some might think, perhaps as late as October-December. The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation, and report back here if anything changes.

Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann