Which company (or companies) will win the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract when the current pact with DIRECTV expires after the 2022 season?
The TV Answer Man has assessed the playing field and compiled a new odds board for the major companies thought to be interested in securing the rights. (We did the same a year ago. You can see our March 2021 odds here.)
Amazon: 2:1 (Previous odds: 5:2)
Amazon showed the industry how serious it is about live sports when it agreed last year to pay more than $1 billion a year for the Thursday Night Football rights. (And Amazon recently captured the exclusive rights to 21 New York Yankees games in the New York market.) The e-commerce titan would become an instant sports giant if it won the exclusive Sunday Ticket streaming rights starting in 2023 and I suspect it will spend what it takes to squeeze out ESPN+ and Apple for the contract.
Disney/ESPN: 5:2 (Previous odds: 2:1)
News reports have suggested that Disney/ESPN’s interest has waned some, but company executives have acknowledged publicly they are bidding for the contract. I doubt very seriously that they would admit that if they didn’t think they were in the running — and was prepared to do everything possible to win. However, Amazon arguably needs the Ticket more than ESPN which already has the rights to numerous high-profile sports. That will push Amazon to up the ante at the finish line, narrowly defeating ESPN.
Apple: 3-1 (Previous odds: 15-1)
Apple’s recent deal with Major League Baseball to offer Friday night doubleheaders has made the tech company the flavor of the month for some sports media analysts; they are now predicting Apple will also secure the next Ticket contract. I have no doubt that Apple is serious here, but I predict the company will fade in the stretch. Apple is new to sports licensing and likely won’t be inclined to agree to some thorny league concessions in the final stages.
DIRECTV: 4-1 (Previous odds: 4-1)
The same news reports that hyped Apple’s Ticket chances also dismissed DIRECTV’s odds of retaining it. I agree that DIRECTV will not keep its exclusive, but I still believe it will at least be awarded the rights to bars and restaurants, if not certain rural areas as well. (The league could split the Ticket contract between two companies or allow one winning company to sublease part of the contract to a second company.)
DIRECTV has sold the Sunday Ticket to restaurants and bars for years, and it would be uniquely positioned to do so after 2022. That alone could help DIRECTV win a portion of the next Ticket. And if it wasn’t enough, DIRECTV’s audience includes a large number of rural residents who don’t have access to high-speed Internet service. If the Sunday Ticket is a streaming exclusive in 2023, the league could lose a significant number of rural viewers.
Comcast/Peacock: 10:1 (Previous odds: 7:2)
The nation’s largest cable TV company has a host of resources (and motivations) to make a serious bid for the Sunday Ticket. Comcast could use it to generate subs for Peacock, its new national streaming service, for its cable TV service, which is available in 40 states, and Flex, its new streaming device that’s now available only in Comcast markets but could be expanded nationally with the Sunday Ticket as a feature. If there’s a company that could pull off an upset here, it’s Comcast. The company could offer the plan to an overwhelming majority of Americans via streaming or cable.
Netflix: 15-1 (Previous odds: 25-1)
Netflix has the money to do anything it wants despite its frequent denials of being interested in pursuing live sports deals. Highly unlikely, but never say never with Netflix. And don’t overlook that Netflix and the NFL may be discussing an ownership stake in NFL Films.
Google: 40-1 (Previous odds: 10-1)
Google owns YouTube and YouTube TV, which could both benefit from offering the Sunday Ticket as a streaming exclusive. But the company’s once active interest in sports seems to have waned in the last few years; perhaps a little sticker shock when it discovered how often (and how much) the leagues (and sports channels) raise their prices.
Final note: The NFL has not said when it will announce the next contract.
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— Phillip Swann