TV Answer Man, I read somewhere that the NFL Sunday Ticket is coming back to DIRECTV after their current contract is done. Was that a story somewhere? Do you know what it was? I’ve had DIRECTV for six years and I would stay with it if the Ticket stays with it. — Sander, Jupiter, Florida. 

Sander, the National Football League has yet to approve the next contract for the Sunday Ticket. DIRECTV currently has the exclusive rights, but they expire after the 2022 season.

While many journalists and financial analysts have dismissed DIRECTV’s chances of keeping the popular package of out-of-market NFL games, longtime readers of this site know that I have said repeatedly that it’s likely the next contract will be split between the satcaster and a streaming service, most likely Amazon Prime or ESPN+.

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And now it appears that the industry consensus is shifting closer to my view. Sports Business Journal, one of the industry’s most respected publications, reported yesterday that “momentum is growing around an extension between the NFL and DIRECTV for NFL Sunday Ticket.” The article cites a recent quote from NFL Chief Media & Business Officer Brian Rolapp:

“If you looked at our last set of media deals, we don’t subscribe to the theory that television is going away,” Rolapp said at the CAA World Congress of Sports conference. “We want to be in every household in this country and beyond. And so while that distribution patterns change, we need to be (in satellite). So in fact, television is going to be meaningful. We’re going to want to be there in a way. I don’t think Sunday Ticket is any different.”

Rolapp is saying that the satellite audience, which includes remote rural communities and bars and restaurants as well as urban/suburban markets, can help the league offer the Ticket to the largest number of people possible. When satellite is combined with streaming, nearly everybody in the country who would want to subscribe to the package would be able to do so.

This is what I’ve been saying for a few years now. While the NFL and AT&T, which still owns 70 percent of DIRECTV, have had their ups and downs, the two still need each other. The league needs DIRECTV to reach more potential Ticket subscribers while DIRECTV needs the league (and a Ticket renewal) to keep more subscribers from defecting. (DIRECTV has lost six to seven million subscribers over the last six years.)

For those who might say DIRECTV is interested in selling the company, and therefore would not invest in the next Ticket contract, how valuable would the satcaster be to a potential buyer if it lost the Ticket and  even more subscribers?

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DIRECTV doesn’t have a renewal yet. But the belief that it should be part of the next Ticket agreement does indeed seem to be gaining momentum in newsrooms, and the NFL’s executive office.

The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation, and report back here if anything significant changes.

Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann