DIRECTV expects to share the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract with another company, probably a streaming company, according to a new article from CNET.com.
Rod Thun, DIRECTV’s chief content officer, tells the technology web site that his company is not likely to carry the Sunday Ticket as an exclusive when its current deal expires after the 2022 season.
DIRECTV has offered the package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games as an exclusive since the Ticket launched in 1994. But Thun says the increased cost of continuing the Ticket as an exclusive “doesn’t make any sense for us.” The satcaster has lost roughly six million customers in the last seven years and subscriber defections are likely to continue as more consumers opt for cheaper streaming alternatives.
Thun added the NFL is also inclined to award the next Ticket contract to multiple companies.
The NFL … I don’t think they were interested in an exclusive relationship beyond the term of our underlying deal,” Thun told CNET.
But the DIRECTV executive said league executives understand that continuing to offer the Ticket to the traditional TV audience (such as satellite TV) is key to generating the most revenue. By allowing both DIRECTV and a streaming company to provide the Ticket, the league could reach the largest number of potential viewers.
“They understand that the money still largely comes through the traditional TV bill, pay TV doors, and they don’t want to close the door on that entirely,” Thun said. “We bring a linear experience to the table as well as digital, but, you know, the large portion of our base is linear. And presumably, the other partners are going to be digital. So there’s a natural partnership to be had given our platforms, and whoever ultimately is the digital player who would take those rights.”
Disney said earlier this month that it’s bidding on the next Sunday Ticket contract for its ESPN+ streaming service while news reports have said Amazon, Apple, and Comcast (for Peacock) could be among the bidders as well.
It’s unclear when the NFL will make a decision on the next Ticket contract.
Update: Pro Football Talk reports today that a streaming service could buy the Ticket’s rights from the league and then sell the satellite rights to DIRECTV or Dish.
“Although it seemed possible that the NFL would retain DirecTV as the satellite provider and sell the streaming rights to a tech company, it now appears (per a source with knowledge of the dynamics) that the league will sell the whole package to a tech company, which then may break off satellite rights to be sold only to consumers (typically, very rural) who lack access to the kind of Internet service needed for reliable streaming. That could be DirecTV, it could be Dish Network, it could be both, and it could be neither,” the article states.
Pro Football Talk’s headline says the Ticket negotiations “remains very fluid.”
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