NFL meetings end without decision on future of Sunday ticket

Since its inception, the NFL Sunday Ticket package has been available exclusively on DirecTV. But with one year to go until that exclusive deal expires, the NFL has made it clear that it wants to bring the out-of-market games package to a streaming partner.

This week the league owners held their league meeting at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., and meetings ended Wednesday without any resolution on the status of Sunday Ticket. In addition to some notable changes to overtime rules in postseason games, there has been a major development on a potential change in the NFL media landscape: the release of a streaming service.

Athleticism reported that the NFL is “developing a subscription streaming service that would include games, radio, podcasts and team content.” The report noted that owners were briefed on the project at meetings in Florida. Although not finalized, the platform may be called “NFL Plus”.

It looks like mobile streams of NFL games, which were free under a previous deal with Verizon, would now only be available to those with NFL Plus subscriptions. Fans can also watch on their phones through cable-authenticated subscriptions and virtual multi-channel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) if their provider makes it available.

The service, according to The Athletic’s report, could be voted on as soon as the next owners’ meeting in May. The Athletic report also said a decision on the future of Sunday Ticket is “at least a few more months away, if not longer”, as there is still one season left for the existing Sunday Ticket deal.

Whenever bidding begins in earnest, Apple and Amazon are expected to compete with established broadcasters and NFL partners like Disney/ABC and Comcast/NBCUniversal. It’s also possible that DirecTV will keep the satellite side of the deal, with one of the other bidders becoming the streaming partner.

Apple recently made its first major sports rights agreement with a deal to show Major League Baseball games on Friday nights. Apple would be interested in a Sunday Ticket package, a share of the NFL’s media arm, and a rights deal for mobile game streaming. The Athletic reported that if Apple or Amazon end up with the rights to the Sunday Ticket, they could be “involved” in the NFL Plus effort.

“Apple wants to consolidate them all into one overarching deal,” the sources said. It would instantly make the tech giant, which has long shunned the sport, one of the NFL’s biggest business partners,” Front Office Sports said. reported earlier this month.

The Athletic said, however, that bidding for the different properties is going down “different tracks”, with a mobile decision likely coming first.

Stephen Silver, technology editor for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who also contributes to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and connect today. Co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Picture: Reuters.

Herman C. Harkins