TV Answer Man, I read the article that says Amazon is likely to get the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract. Do you agree with that? That would not be good for me and my area where we can’t get the Internet very well. We need DIRECTV for TV and the Sunday Ticket. So do we have anything to worry about? — Bonnie, Painter, Virginia.
Bonnie, as you know, CNBC reported last week that Amazon is the current front-runner to land the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract which would begin after DIRECTV’s current exclusive agreement for the package of out-of-market games expires after the 2022 season.
The article adds that DIRECTV, which is now a separate company jointly owned by AT&T and private equity firm, TPG, is undecided whether to make a bid for the next contract.
The CNBC report immediately triggered numerous reaction stories suggesting that Amazon is in the driver’s seat. But it says here that the competition for the next Sunday Ticket contract is at the equivalent of a NFL halftime.
In fact, if you read the CNBC article closely, there’s evidence that this is the case!
In paragraph four, CNBC’s Alex Sherman writes:
“The NFL is expected to ask for $2 billion to $2.5 billion per year for the package and wants to wrap up discussions before the season ends in February, (italics mine) two of the people said.”
If Amazon was such a formidable front-runner, it seems to me that the league would not be concerned about whether the discussions would be wrapped up in…five months! If Amazon was close to a deal, it might take just five weeks, not five months.
This February reference suggests that negotiations are far from over, and other companies, including ESPN and DIRECTV, may become serious competitors. (That is, if they are not already serious competitors.)
My educated guess is that the league is playing poker and trying to place pressure on other bidders, including DIRECTV, to s— or get off the pot, as the saying goes. However, in my view, the February comment is what’s called a ‘tell’ in poker, a reveal of what your true hand is. Consequently, while I believe Amazon may be the current front-runner, I’m not convinced it will win. Not yet.
I still think the Ticket will be split between a streaming company (Amazon or ESPN most likely) and a pay TV company (DIRECTV most likely.) This can generate the most revenue and reach the biggest audience.
Final note: It’s possible that DIRECTV has a renewal clause in its current contract that could guarantee it at least a portion of the next agreement, if it wants it. If that’s the case, this would be another reason why the league would leak a story suggesting Amazon is close to a deal. If DIRECTV doesn’t want to be part of the next deal, the league would like to know so it can move on.
Bonnie, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann