TV Answer Man, I read that Apple will get the NFL Sunday Ticket from DIRECTV. When will that happen? When it does, I’m leaving DIRECTV dead and flat! — Marlon, Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Marlon, when will Apple get the NFL Sunday Ticket? Probably never. Let me explain.

The Information web site reported last week that Apple was “in early talks” to acquire the streaming rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket, the popular package of Sunday afternoon games that have been an exclusive offering for DIRECTV since 1994.

DIRECTV’s contract to carry the Sunday Ticket as an exclusive is scheduled to end after the 2022 season, which has generated considerable interest regarding who might get the rights when it does. Various reports have previously said that Amazon or ESPN will get the next contract and now comes The Information with a pot-stirring report saying Apple is in the mix, too.

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However, before you warm up your Apple TV device, the story notes that Apple is not a likely winner in the sweepstakes.

“Yet, while the talks about Sunday Ticket are still going on, Apple isn’t seen as a serious contender for the rights, given its reluctance to invest heavily in entertainment programming in the past,” The Information writes.

To date, the Apple TV+ streaming service does not carry any sports, much less something as significant and costly as the Sunday Ticket. (DIRECTV paid roughly $12 billion for the exclusive rights in 2014.)  So it seems likely that Apple is simply doing its due diligence to determine what the cost and logistics would be if it were to bid for the Sunday Ticket. That makes sense for any major streaming service now, particularly one looking to expand its audience.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped dozens of publications from writing stories suggesting that Apple will win the next Sunday Ticket contract. But at this point, there’s nothing to warrant those claims.

Most publications have also said that DIRECTV won’t try to renew its contract when it expires after 2022. But AT&T, which is currently forming a new DIRECTV company in conjunction with private equity firm TPG, has never said it won’t try to renew. The stories suggesting it won’t seek the next contract have no basis in fact; it’s opinion presented as fact.

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I think it’s possible that DIRECTV will seek a portion of the next Sunday Ticket deal, which I suspect will be split between a streaming company and a pay TV company. You can read more about that here.

Marlon, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann