A new report from The Puck says Apple has pulled out of the negotiations for the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract, leaving Amazon and Google as the finalists to take over the package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games starting with the 2023 season.

The Puck writes that “Apple, once seen as a frontrunner for the rights, has also backed out of those negotiations — not because they can’t afford it, but because they don’t see the logic.”

Multiple news reports have said recently that talks between Apple and the NFL have stalled over  concerns regarding the final price as well as the league’s insistence that Apple charge a premium price for the Sunday Ticket. The New York Post reported this week that Apple wanted to include the Ticket’s games in its regular $6.99 a month Apple TV+ subscription, but NFL executives were concerned that would diminish viewership for game broadcasts on Fox and CBS.

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“So it’s down to Amazon and Google, and there’s certainly a logic there for both companies: Amazon can use it to drive Prime subscriptions; Google can use it to fuel its YouTube TV business.,” The Puck writes.

However, before we dismiss Apple as a Sunday Ticket bidder, neither the league nor Apple have confirmed The Puck’s report.

In addition, it was The Puck that reported last April that one source said Apple had already secured the Ticket deal but wanted to keep that confidential until it could announce it at a later date. The publication also wrote then that another source told it that Apple was ‘in the driver’s seat’ to get the Ticket rights.

Another reason for caution: Sources sometimes tell reporters purposely misleading things to gain leverage in negotiations.

If the new report from The Puck is correct, it would mean that Apple and Disney/ESPN are now out of the running.

Update: The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan tweeted last night that a source also tells him that Apple is out. The Puck’s report from last April was never confirmed by another reporter.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that negotiations for the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract have reached a “very critical point,” which would suggest the league is getting closer to picking a winner.

DIRECTV has acknowledged that it does not plan to bid to renew its exclusive rights to the package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games, although it would like to continue serving bars and restaurants with the Ticket if it can strike a deal with whatever streaming company takes over starting with the 2023 season.

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— Phillip Swann