The NFL Sunday Ticket goes to YouTube in a $2 billion annual deal

The National Football League announced Thursday that its Sunday ticket subscription package will go to Google’s YouTube TV starting next season, marking the league’s second media rights deal with a streaming service.

According to people familiar with the matter, YouTube TV will pay around $2 billion annually for the rights to the Sunday Ticket package. The deal will run for seven years, one of the people said.

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At the start of the 2023/24 season, Sunday Ticket will be available in two ways: as an add-on package on YouTube TV and as a standalone a la carte option on YouTube Primetime Channels, allowing you to subscribe to individual streaming services and channels as well as watch films. The price has yet to be announced.

“For several years we have focused on increasing digital distribution of our games, and this partnership is another example of how we look to the future and build the next generation of NFL fans,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the announcement Thursday.

DirecTV has owned the rights to Sunday Ticket since its inception in 1994 and has paid $1.5 billion annually for it since it was last renewed in 2014. It has not made an offer to maintain its contract. Still, the satellite TV provider has been open to continuing to offer the games to commercial establishments such as bars and restaurants, similar to its deal with Amazon for Thursday Night Football, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal with YouTube TV doesn’t include any commercial rights that could add value to the package, and the NFL is still finalizing that, according to one of the people.

Sunday Ticket, a US-only product, is the only way for fans to watch live Sunday afternoon NFL games outside of their local markets on CBS and Fox networks.

It is the last NFL package to receive a media rights extension. Last year, Outstandingcbs, Fox Spirit KomcastNBC agreed to pay more than $2 billion annually for 11-year packages, while Disney pays about $2.7 billion annually for Monday Night Football, CNBC previously reported.

Amazon secured the rights to “Thursday Night Football,” making it the first streaming-only platform to air NFL games and paying about $1 billion a year.

The league has been in talks for some time to find a new owner for Sunday Ticket. AppleAmazon, duck Disney’s ESPN was eventually among the interested bidders for the package, CNBC previously reported.

YouTube TV is an Internet bundle of broadcast and cable networks that mirrors a traditional linear pay-TV operator. The basic plan costs $64.99 per month. In July, Google announced that YouTube TV had surpassed 5 million, including trial subscriptions.

YouTube Primetime Channels, which will be the a la carte option for Sunday Ticket, is a distribution platform similar to subscribing to networks and streaming services through Amazon’s Prime Channels.

For comparison, Apple recently signed a 10-year deal for the rights to broadcast Major League Soccer games. The tech giant recently announced that the MLS Season Pass will launch in February and will be available to fans on the Apple TV app for $14.99 per month per season. Subscribers to the Apple TV+ streaming service who are already paying $4.99 per month can sign up for $12.99 per month.

In recent months, YouTube TV has emerged as a strong contender for the rights as it could offer much of what the league was hoping for with a new Sunday ticket partner – a technology platform with a large footprint and global reach, and the ability to to support bundled legacy TV.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is pushing Sunday Ticket to end up on a streaming service. “I think that’s what’s best for consumers at this stage,” Goodell previously told CNBC.

For a while, Apple seemed on the verge of acquiring the rights. The company has expanded its sports presence for its Apple TV+ streaming service. It recently signed a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer beginning in 2023 and began airing Major League Baseball games on Friday nights last year.

However, discussions collapsed due to existing restrictions surrounding Sunday ticket rights, and Apple wanted more flexibility in how the package was distributed, CNBC previously reported.

Amazon was also seen as another top contender, as it already airs Thursday Night Football games and is a streaming-only platform.

While these competitions air primarily on Prime, DirecTV distributes the games commercially in bars, restaurants, hotels and retailers. The two signed a multi-year contract before the start of the season. DirecTV is interested in offering Sunday Ticket games in a similar fashion, people familiar with the matter said.

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