YouTube in advanced talks for NFL Sunday entry

Google’s YouTube is nearing a deal to acquire rights to the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket game package, according to three people with knowledge of the talks, a deal that would bring a staple of traditional television into the streaming realm .

Google has talked about paying the league about $2.5 billion annually, $1 billion more than DirecTV, which held the rights for years, according to two of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential negotiations.

The league could receive additional payments based on the number of YouTube subscribers Google is able to add, as well as other performance benchmarks, the people said. The length of the contract is unclear.

The deal with YouTube, if it goes through, could lead to a sudden influx of YouTube TV, its premium streaming product. DirecTV has between 1.5 and 2 million Sunday Ticket subscribers, who pay an additional fee to access all Sunday afternoon games except those 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 could be reached between YouTube and the NFL as soon as this week, the people said.

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

YouTube’s pursuit of Sunday Ticket is the latest sign that live sports, the glue that binds the traditional cable package together, is shifting to streaming video companies. Amazon struck a deal last year to stream NFL Thursday night football games on its Prime video service for $1 billion a year, and Apple has struck deals to stream both baseball and the Major League as in Major League Soccer. The Apple TV+ streaming service has already landed rich deals to land big stars for its movies and TV shows, including “The Morning Show” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

As negotiations dragged on, Apple became skeptical that the Sunday Ticket package was worth what the NFL was seeking and ended serious talks about a possible deal, a person familiar with the matter said. Apple focused on completing a deal to sponsor the halftime show for the 2023 Super Bowl, 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. There has been years of speculation about who could land the coveted rights.

Over the past year, it became clear that the league had its sights set on selling Sunday Ticket rights to a streaming service. In July, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview with CNBC that a streaming buyer would be “the best thing for consumers.” Apple, YouTube and Amazon soon emerged as major competitors, tech giants with money and audiences big enough to attract the NFL

A number of factors influenced the agreement process. The league explored combining the NFL’s out-of-market Sunday game package with some of its other media assets, including the NFL Network, which complicated things. Also, giants like the NFL and Apple are used to getting their way during negotiations, and neither side wanted to budge.

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

The Sunday Ticket package is the latest big piece of the NFL media rights puzzle to be sold. 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 reached, industry speculation will turn to negotiations for rights to show National Basketball Association games, talks expected to begin in earnest next year. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, two major NBA rights holders, are expected to explore a bid, 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 i Tripp Mickle provide reports

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