In the quest to get people to pay monthly for video, having the rights to stream sports, especially football, is key. Apple might finally be playing that game to spruce up Apple TV Plus: The Information reports the trillion-dollar phone maker has expressed early interest in securing the rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package — a subscription covering every game that is not airing on local affiliates — for its video service.
The NFL has reportedly not entered into actual negotiations yet, according to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, and Apple likely won’t be the only company competing. The Information writes that other streaming competitors, like Disney’s ESPN Plus and Amazon’s Prime Video, are likely also trying to secure even more games for their platforms. Currently Sunday Ticket is held by DirecTV, but its contract is up in 2022, which means there's an opportunity to shop around for an even more lucrative deal. DirecTV is also going through its own transition, as AT&T plans to spin out the satellite company and its other non-WarnerMedia video businesses.
Sunday Ticket was actually a condition for AT&T merging with DirecTV in the first place in 2014. The company gave itself an out of its then-$48.5 billion deal if DirecTV wasn’t able to reach an agreement with the NFL. It ultimately did, but according to The Information, the service has mainly lost DirecTV and AT&T money heading into 2022:
AT&T said it would “pay net losses” on the Sunday Ticket up to $2.5 billion over the remaining period of the contract.
There’s good reason to take Apple seriously, even if it’s not ultimately able to secure the bag. The company poached Jim DeLorenzo, the former Amazon executive in charge of leading the company’s sports efforts, in 2020. He could be very well be scheduling lunches with NFL bigwigs as I write this, though it’s not clear what a deal would look like with Apple. Amazon has developed a successful relationship with the NFL over the years, gaining exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football games earlier this year, so maybe the groundwork DeLorenzo laid there will transfer over.
Either way, the heat is on, and with Apple trying to make TV Plus even more enticing, it's yet another hand trying to exchange money for the most watched sport on US television.