Will the NFL pull out early from its agreement with DirecTV to carry its NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market games package? And will it break off streaming rights from this satellite deal and sell them to another technology company besides DirecTV parent AT&T?
In what is being billed as a wide-ranging Q&A with Sports Business Daily writer Ben Fischer, which is set to publish on Sept. 2, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't seem to be making any declarative statements.
As it happens, Fischer’s colleague, SBJ media editor John Ourand, released some of Goodell’s quotes early in a Wednesday blog post. Are a few tea leaves to read between in here?
Some background: The NFL can opt out of the last two seasons of its DirecTV satellite-TV deal, 2021 and 2022, sacrificing $3 billion in hopes that it can do better elsewhere. Simultaneously, it has reportedly talked to other streaming companies beyond AT&T about breaking off NFL Sunday Ticket streaming rights. The league is said to have talked to ESPN+, DAZN and Amazon, but no deal is imminent.
In his SBJ discussion, Goodell seems to indicate that AT&T has an inside track to keeping it all in the corporate family. Since taking over DirecTV in 2015, AT&T has launched virtual multichannel video programming distributor AT&T TV Now and premium streaming pay-TV platform AT&T TV.
“Obviously AT&T-DirecTV is a different company than when we struck the deal,” Goodell told Fischer. “They have more platforms, they have more assets. The deal we have structured is a satellite-only deal, and so we’ll continue to talk to them about whether that’s made available to a broader audience through other platforms — either through AT&T or otherwise, but those are things that we’ll continue to have discussions about. But I expect to be partners with them for the next several years at least.”
Could “next several years” also mean the NFL is playing out the string, and will leave after the 2020 season? Goodell also expressed comfort in working with companies like Amazon and Google.
“These are really very sophisticated companies,” he told SBJ. “They are making huge investments into video. I firmly believe, and I hear this more consistently, that live sports can make a difference in a lot of those platforms. I do firmly believe that these other platforms are going to be players in future negotiations. And frankly, they are in current negotiations.”
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