TV Answer Man, I am confused. I read that DIRECTV doesn’t want the Sunday Ticket anymore, but I see it still has it. And then I read there’s a new company called DIRECTV. What is going on and will DIRECTV still have the Sunday Ticket this season and next year and the next year….Help! — Juan, Nashville. 

Juan, I feel your pain (and confusion.) Let me try to explain this for you.

First, DIRECTV yesterday officially became a separate company owned jointly by AT&T and the private equity firm, TPG. The new company, which was established via AT&T’s sale of 30 percent in DIRECTV to TPG, will include the DIRECTV satellite TV service, AT&T TV (which will soon be rebranded, DIRECTV Stream), and the AT&T-owned U-verse TV service.

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Second, DIRECTV has a contract with the National Football League to offer the NFL Sunday Ticket exclusively for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. This is part of DIRECTV’s eight-year, $12 billion agreement with the league which was signed in 2014.

Third, news reports have suggested that the new DIRECTV company will not be interested in renewing its Sunday Ticket agreement when it expires. This has triggered speculation that another company, or companies, will land the next Sunday Ticket contract, perhaps Amazon, ESPN or Comcast (for Peacock). This narrative got a boost yesterday when the Los Angeles Times reported that new DIRECTV CEO Bill Morrow said it’s unlikely that the satellite TV service will keep the Ticket beyond 2022.

However, we don’t know if Morrow was referring to the exclusive arrangement the satcaster now has with the league, or any portion of the contract. There has also been speculation that the NFL’s next Sunday Ticket deal will include multiple companies, perhaps one for the streaming audience and one for the pay TV category.

If Morrow was talking about keeping the Ticket as an exclusive, that is unlikely. The new DIRECTV would not be inclined to pay the premium price necessary to keep the Ticket as an exclusive.

But Sports Business Journal reports today that the odds of DIRECTV of securing a piece of the Sunday Ticket beyond 2022 improved yesterday when it became a separate company. AT&T was not a fan of the NFL package, the publication writes, but the new company’s stance will be different.

“That puts DIRECTV firmly in the mix when its contract ends after the 2022 season,” SBJ writes, adding that it’s possible that the satellite company will even try to keep the exclusive deal, although its ‘best bet’ to keep the Sunday Ticket after 2022 is if the contract is divided among companies.

This is basically what I’ve been saying at this site for some time. It makes sense for the league to dole out Ticket deals to a streaming company, and a pay TV company, to ensure maximum profit and exposure. And no one is better positioned to distribute the Ticket to a pay TV audience than DIRECTV which has done so for almost 30 years.

The league is expected to accelerate negotiations for the next Ticket agreement later this year so we might unlock this mystery in the coming months. Until then, the TV Answer Man will monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant changes.

Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann