TV Answer Man, I saw the article saying Apple will get the next NFL Sunday Ticket deal. Does that mean it’s over for DIRECTV? And when would this happen? — Penny, Taos, New Mexico.

Penny, the article you’re referring to is from The Athletic and it says NFL officials are hoping that Apple will get the next Sunday Ticket contract when the current one with DIRECTV expires after the 2022 season. According to the article, the league is enamored with an Apple bid because the tech giant might offer some unique twists on the Ticket, such as one-team plans or even single game purchases. (The Athletic seems unaware that DIRECTV has offered single-week purchases for years.)

The article sparked numerous reaction pieces suggesting that Apple is now the front runner for the next contract. But here’s the problem with that. It was just two weeks ago that CNBC quoted anonymous league sources as saying that Amazon is in the lead for the next agreement. And last May, numerous publications wrote that ESPN (owned by Disney) is the likely leader after Disney executives confirmed they were ‘in talks’ with the NFL for the Ticket.

So who’s the real front runner here?

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No one.

That’s right. No one.

It’s clear to me that no one company currently has a lock on the next Sunday Ticket deal. The league is simply planting multiple stories with each article suggesting a different company has the advantage.

Why would the NFL do this?

To encourage interested parties to up their bids, and prod some contemplating companies to make a bid. The latter would include Amazon, Disney, and Apple while the former would include DIRECTV and perhaps Comcast for its streaming service, Peacock.

The NFL wants as many companies as possible involved to ensure that the final bid is as lucrative as possible. If one or two of those companies see that a possible rival is ahead, they might get more serious about their intentions.

Seriously, the CNBC article even quoted anonymous league officials as saying they hoped to wrap up negotiations by February 2022. If there was a real front runner, would the league need five more months to seal the deal?

Obviously not.

So Penny, don’t be swayed by every report you read, particularly ones quoting anonymous sources. 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 for the league, and reach the biggest audience.

Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann