Why an Apple-NFL Sunday Ticket marriage didn’t come together

Why isn’t the NFL biting Apple?

The NFL appears poised to snare another big media deal this week, with the league close to selling Sunday ticket rights to YouTube and Google’s YouTube TV, moving out-of-market gaming packages into the streaming universe.

But it appears that from time to time Apple will bring the popular Sunday Ticket completely into the digital universe. (DirecTV holders allow streaming in areas where satellite dishes cannot.) The NFL aspires to do business with the most important companies in the world. And have spent most of the past year trying to make that happen. And this deal seems natural for Apple, which is trying to expand Apple TV Plus.

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Earlier this year, the NFL received support for its Super Bowl halftime show from Apple, but weeks ago media talks broke down. Why?

There’s an obvious answer. Apple reportedly wants to pay less than the NFL wants to be able to offer the product at a lower price than DirecTV obliges, but the NFL’s contracts with Fox and CBS don’t allow it to do so. (Lower Sunday ticket prices may lead viewers out of the Sunday afternoon network window.) DirecTV’s Sunday ticket offerings start at about $300 per season.


Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf on NFL Sunday Ticket in 2020. This will be the final season for the package on DirecTV, running since 1994. (Peter Barreras/Associated Press)

Google’s media strategy is also stronger than Apple’s, with YouTube TV, a growing multi-channel digital platform, and YouTube itself with 2.5 billion monthly users.

“Other tech companies Much more advanced where they are. with a business model for the media “Apple has gone very far in terms of media and music. But other companies like Amazon go much further, Google and YouTube go much further, Apple is really behind the scenes.”

Apple and the NFL can’t agree on whether the company will get the rights to distribute Sunday Tickets on non-existent platforms. Apple is investing heavily in virtual and augmented reality. This is a nascent platform where most sports are not yet viewed. As a result, Apple requires what it calls known and unknown permissions. People familiar with the NFL and Apple say there’s no virtual marketplace for Sunday tickets. but maybe one day

“Imagine a virtual reality device that gives fans a Sunday ticket experience that is as if they were watching from a real-time audience,” said Tom Richardson, senior vice president of Mercury Intermedia and adjunct professor of sports management programs at Columbia University. A 50-yard row of seats. The platform may seem distant, but Richardson says it could be coming in the next 24 months.

“It’s a well-known fact that Apple is on the verge of massive growth in AR and VR,” Richardson said, “and it’s been widely reported over the last couple of years that ’23 could be a breakout year. So I suspect when they’re looking at multi-year agreements… you’re looking at a very different technological environment. The consumer electronics environment by the end of the decade at this point, without doubt, some growth is very viable. It’s growing exponentially in the world of immersive media experiences.”

Richardson in the 1990s worked for the NFL and NHL and recalled a similar situation in the modern digital world. when companies Ask if media rights negotiations are good to be featured on “everything,” and as it is now, the answer is no.

“The League doesn’t like compromises and Apple as a two and a half million dollar company. no matter what they are now Obviously they have their own way of doing business.”

Apple’s agreement with Major League Soccer to stream all of its games is believed to contain open-ended language in their agreement. MLS did not respond for comment.

So why doesn’t the NFL accept “unknown” language in its contract? First of all, it never did business that way. by raising rights other than those specifically specified But the future platforms of AR and VR may be viewed as new media types worthy of separate agreements.

It is not possible to determine where pending Google agreements will terminate on this issue. But given the blockade between the NFL and Apple, it’s hard to see the league justify Google having its own AR and VR efforts.

Apple also inquired about the broader permissions it had.

Former Fox Sports executive Patrick Crakes said Apple and the NFL are never on the same page, “so (Apple) is always learning things like, ‘We want a 5-year term,’ ‘No, you have to do a 10-year term.'” We want global rights.’ ‘No, you can’t have that.’ ‘We want some specialty.’ ‘No.'”

The value of Sunday tickets has also dropped for fans over the years. Because the games that were previously broadcast only in more countries And it makes away packages valuable for fans outside of their home team market – reduced with more international windows.

“When the Sunday Ticket came out (in 1994), there was clearly one big game you would miss every week,” Crakes said. You have a game on Saturday. Do you have a game for Christmas? I mean, there are these games everywhere and you have a flexible schedule that guarantees the biggest and best games are over. Of course Sunday Night Football, next year we will start with Monday Night Football.”

It was almost 30 years ago when DirecTV started selling Sunday tickets. None of those Thursday night games suck from Sunday afternoon games, nor is NFL Network having a handful of extra games. Those TNF games are streamed by Amazon, which is pushing late Sunday tickets.

The NFL is looking for more payments from DirecTV than its annual average of $1.5 billion. That’s a figure many experts blame, as satellite operators lose money on the numbers below. But Wednesday’s report in According to SportsBusiness Journal, the NFL received $2.5 billion. (It’s unclear if this includes bar and restaurant markets as well. which may be excluded from the agreement).

This isn’t the first time the NFL has surprised experts. When the league buys the package, TNF gets about $650 million a year, and the incumbent Fox and other original players don’t bid. Amazon gets $1.1 billion a year. which proves the power of NFL content.

One thing is clear: Apple, which has all but created the home computing market and then the smartphone business, will be fine and will find another way to expand Apple TV Plus without the NFL interested.

“Apple is Apple,” said Richardson, who wrote for what he called Apple magazine in the 1980s, “and they always seemed to figure it out.”

(Top photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)



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