It’s Super Bowl week, which means that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his annual press conference on Wednesday. In a preview story on the Athletic (subscription required), reporter Daniel Kaplan mentioned Apple prominently:
The NFL under terms of its agreement with its existing media partners cannot currently negotiate with other firms. But it is no secret Goodell and Apple CEO Tim Cook talk. One subject they surely broached is Sunday Ticket. DirectTV has two more years left to carry the out-of-market package and then is widely expected to walk because of shifting priorities at parent AT&T. The NFL has long been under pressure to open Sunday Ticket to more platforms than just satellite, and streaming it through Apple TV would solve that concern.
For those who don’t know, NFL Sunday Ticket is a subscription offering that allows football fans in the U.S. to watch all live games that are being shown outside their local market. It’s been exclusive to satellite-TV provider DirecTV for decades, and has probably driven millions of people to sign up for DirecTV. (Me included!)
While it feels less likely to me that a streaming service would bid for part of the core live TV package that currently is split between CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN/ABC, Sunday Ticket seems like the perfect vehicle for a streaming service to use to drive subscribers.
The question is, who? Apple is a candidate, sure. But Amazon has experimented with sports programming, most notably with a package of Premier League soccer matches in the UK. And it’s a perfect fit for Disney’s ESPN+ streaming service, though Disney’s already paying the NFL a lot of money for Monday Night Football.
Of course, the NFL could just sell Sunday Ticket on its own, and make a lot of money! But there’s more money to be made selling the service to someone who is willing to lose money on the deal in order to build something bigger. Apple is definitely one of the companies who fits that description.