YouTube in Advanced Talks for the NFL Sunday Ticket

According to three people with knowledge of the talks, Google’s YouTube is close to a deal to acquire the rights to the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket game pack, a deal that would bring a staple of traditional television to the streaming space .

Google has talked about paying about $2.5 billion a year to the league, $1 billion more than DirecTV, which held the rights for years, according to two of the people, who would only speak anonymously to avoid confidential negotiations to discuss.

The league could receive additional payments based on the number of YouTube subscribers Google can add and other performance benchmarks, the people said. The duration of the contract is unclear.

The deal with YouTube, if it goes through, could result in a sudden influx of YouTube TV, its premium streaming product. DirecTV has 1.5 million to two million Sunday Ticket subscribers who pay an additional fee for access to all Sunday afternoon games except for games broadcast in their local markets. YouTube said in July that YouTube TV had more than five million subscribers and trial users of the product, which costs $64.99 a month.

A deal between YouTube and the NFL could be reached as early as this week, people said.

YouTube did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the league declined to comment.

YouTube’s pursuit of Sunday Ticket is the latest sign that live sport, the glue that holds the traditional bundle of cables together, is shifting to video streaming companies. Amazon struck an agreement last year to stream Thursday night NFL football games on its Prime Video service for $1 billion a year, and Apple inked deals to stream both Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer . Streaming service Apple TV+ has already raked in big bucks for its movies and TV shows, including The Morning Show and Killers of the Flower Moon.

As negotiations dragged on, Apple grew skeptical that the Sunday Ticket package was worth what the NFL was looking for and ended serious talks about a possible deal, a person familiar with the matter said. Apple was focused on completing a deal to sponsor the Super Bowl 2023 halftime show, which it believes will raise the profile of its Apple Music service.

DirecTV’s rights to Sunday Ticket will expire at the end of the 2022 regular season. For years there has been speculation about who could acquire the coveted rights.

Within the last year, it became clear that the league had its sights set on selling the Sunday ticket rights to a streaming service. In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview with CNBC that a streaming buyer is “the best thing for consumers.” Apple, YouTube, and Amazon soon emerged as leading contenders, tech giants with bankrolls and audiences big enough to lure the NFL

A number of factors weighed on the deal-making process. The league was investigating bundling the package of out-of-print Sunday NFL games with some of its other media resources, including the NFL Network, complicating matters. Additionally, giants like the NFL and Apple are used to getting their way in negotiations, and neither side was willing to back down.

Last week Mr. Goodell said the talks are at a “critical” stage.

The Sunday Ticket package is the last big piece of the NFL media rights puzzle to go on sale. In March 2021, the league announced 10-year deals with all of its major television partners worth more than $100 billion.

Once the NFL deal is finalized, industry speculation will turn to negotiations for the rights to show National Basketball Association games, talks that are expected to begin in earnest next year. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, two major NBA rights holders, are expected to be exploring an offer, as are some of the biggest streaming platforms.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that YouTube was in advanced talks to acquire the rights.

Nico Grant Spirit Trip Mickle contributed reporting.

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