NFL Sunday Ticket reportedly becoming 'streaming product' — and Apple could win

NFL Sunday Ticket
(Image credit: AT&T)

The NFL’s Sunday Ticket package is likely to become an all-digital proposition when the current contract with DirecTV ends in 2023, according to NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell. And it appears that the NFL favors Apple over other candidates. 

CNBC reports Goodell as describing Sunday Ticket as a “streaming product" going forward, giving the biggest hint yet that it’ll be all digital once it leaves AT&T’s DirecTV — its home for 27 years. “I think that is best for our fans to make it accessible on a digital platform,” he explained. 

As reported previously, Sunday Ticket — a subscription service that allows live coverage of every NFL game not bagged by local affiliates — isn’t likely to be renewed by DirecTV as it’s something that has actually lost the service money of late. It currently costs $1 billion a year, so it’s not exactly the kind of thing to be gambled on — and CNBC previously claimed that the price could rise to $2.5 billion per year this time around. 

That kind of price limits the number of companies that could realistically launch a bid, but the latest report highlights a “person familiar with the NFL’s thinking,” who claims that “several” tech companies have shown an interest. 

Three destinations are commonly cited, each with the kind of funds to make such a move possible: Amazon, Apple and Disney’s ESPN. Amazon was once a “likely front runner”, according to CNBC, but this most recent report notes that “in league circles, the rumblings suggest the NFL eventually wants to lure Apple to take it over.” 

That may seem counterintuitive, given Apple currently doesn’t currently offer live sports of any kind, while Amazon does. But the company may consider it a new way to draw in millions of iPhone and iPad shoppers each year. 

And while NFL rights may seem like an expensive gamble, it still could ultimately be cheaper than commissioning and filming original content that may or may not flop: for every Ted Lasso, there’s a Friends from College, after all. NFL viewing figures are more of a known quantity, and potentially a safer bet.

Wherever the destination is, the NFL is reportedly also considering other big changes to make Sunday Ticket more appealing to consumers. It could give customers the option to purchase individual team games, for example, or allow streaming services to carry a specific conference.

We should have a better idea of what 2023’s Sunday Ticket will look like soon. The league apparently wants the new agreement in place before the 2022 season starts. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.