TV Answer Man, I saw a post that Apple TV+ has a deal for the Sunday Ticket after DIRECTV. Is that true? What say you? We depend on your info! DIRECTV subscriber since 1998! — Mitch, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Mitch, as you probably know, DIRECTV has the NFL Sunday Ticket contract through the 2022 season as an exclusive, a status it has held since the Ticket’s launch in 1994. But several companies, including Apple, Amazon and Disney/ESPN, are interested in taking over the deal starting with the 2023 season.
Over the last year, there have been reports from different journalists that each of the three are in the ‘driver’s seat’ to secure the next agreement. Obviously, not all three can win so the multiple articles (quoting anonymous sources) suggest the competition is fierce and the league and the companies are working overtime to create the perception that someone is winning.
The latest ‘driver’s seat’ report comes from The Puck’s Matthew Belloni who says one source tells him that Apple has secured the deal, but wants to keep that confidential for now. Another source tells Belloni that Apple is in, yes, ‘the driver’s seat.’
Belloni’s report has not been confirmed by other top sports media journalists, not to mention Apple or the NFL which are not commenting. So before you send a congratulations text to Cupertino, take that into account.
Update: John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reports (April 19) that his sources tell him that both Apple and Amazon are still in the running for the next Ticket contract with ESPN a “distant third.” He writes that little has changed since February when Apple and Amazon were considered the front runners.
Also: There’s a big difference between “has the deal” and “is in the driver’s seat.” The fact that two presumably credible (although anonymous) sources are giving different interpretations should also give us pause.
Apple clearly is interested in the Ticket and has the resources and motivation to pull it off. (The company recently began showing exclusive Friday night MLB games.) But let’s put the foot on the brake a bit before we say a deal is done.
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant changes.
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— Phillip Swann