Google Appears on the Cusp of Securing NFL Sunday Ticket for YouTube

Joe Flint and Miles Kruppa, reporting yesterday for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

The National Football League is in advanced talks to give Google’s YouTube exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, a subscription-only package that allows football fans to watch most Sunday afternoon games, people familiar with the matter said.

Under the scenario being discussed, NFL games would be available to be streamed on two subscription services, YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels, next season. [...] YouTube TV, a $64.99-a-month online bundle of cable channels, crossed more than 5 million subscriptions and trial accounts in June, according to the company. Primetime Channels, which launched in November, allows viewers to individually subscribe to more than 30 streaming services.

Sunday Ticket would be offered as an add-on to both services, the people familiar with the potential agreement said.

For most of the last year, the Sunday Ticket rights were considered Apple’s to lose, but in recent weeks it began to seem clear that Apple and the NFL couldn’t come to terms. One point of contention was pricing — not the annual price Apple would pay the NFL for the rights, but the price to be charged to fans to watch the games. According to a report from Sportico (paywalled; The Verge has a summary), Apple wanted to include the Sunday Ticket games as part of the basic $7/month Apple TV+ package. The NFL, apparently, wanted Sunday Ticket to remain a premium add-on no matter who obtained the rights.

More broadly, a CNBC report from back in October suggests that Apple wanted flexibility on what they’d be allowed to do with the rights — flexibility the NFL didn’t want to offer. From that October CNBC report:

Apple isn’t interested in simply acting as a conduit for broadcasting games, according to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services. Cue oversees Apple’s media and sports partnerships and its streaming service, Apple TV+. Apple is looking for partnerships with sports leagues in which it can offer consumers more than standard rights agreements — such as having free rein to offer games globally or in local markets. Apple has that type of deal with Major League Soccer, a 10-year partnership that begins in 2023.

“We weren’t interested in buying sports rights,” Cue said this week at a Paley Center for Media panel in New York. “There’s all kinds of capabilities that we’re going to be able to do together because we have everything together. And so if I have a great idea, I don’t have to think about, OK, well, my contract or the deal of interest will allow this.”

Wednesday, 21 December 2022