The NFL’s massive deal with Google (seven years at a reported $2 billion per year plus potential increases if benchmarks are reached) for the rights to Sunday Ticket sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Apple and Amazon were long viewed as the favorites, with other NFL TV partners running streaming services (CBS, ESPN, NBC) also considered as potential homes. The Google-owned YouTube, a non-rightsholder who didn’t enter the fray until later in the process, was hardly thought of as a likely landing spot. But for various reasons, the other possible bidders fell out, leaving Google to make a massive splash in the sports media world.
But even with the deal done, there are still several question that need to be answered in the next eight or so months before the start of the 2023 season. Here are five of them.
Who will win the commercial distribution rights to Sunday Ticket?
The restaurant and bar distribution for Sunday Ticket wasn’t included in this deal with Google, with the NFL seeking $200 million annually from other bidders. DirecTV could be a potential partner here, as they are with Thursday Night Football on Prime Video. But if a deal doesn’t get done with DirecTV, the league is going to need to get *something* done before the start of the season, given how many people watch games when they’re out and about. The out of home viewership spike for NFL games is impressive, and not having a commercial distribution deal done for Sunday Ticket would be catastrophic.
Will YouTube’s “updated NFL Sunday Ticket product features and functionality” include single team or single game options?
This is probably the question on every fan’s mind. Will you still have to dish out $300 for the full Sunday Ticket plan, or will the NFL take a page out of the book of other leagues and allow single team, or even single game, plans? $300 a season, or $75 a month, for a whole bunch of games you’re not going to watch is highway robbery. Cut that price to a third, and $100 a season or $25 a month for just the games you want? Sure, there will be fans (like myself) who likely downgrade, but there will probably be a lot more who never subscribed because of the exorbitant price and are more amenable to the lower price for a tighter slate of games.
I’m also curious if the NFL would adopt the single game model that the NBA has had some success with in recent years. This could be a huge help during multiple game windows if a local team is playing in a poor game, and there’s a much better game available on the same network. Would you pay $10 to watch Seahawks-Chiefs this weekend instead of Lions-Panthers? I bet there are people who would, and when the disparity is even wider, there are probably more people that would take advantage of the opportunity.
What will happen to the NFL RedZone Channel?
With Sunday Ticket no longer a DirecTV property, it doesn’t seem likely that DirecTV’s version of the RedZone Channel will continue operating next year. Will the Scott Hanson version become the new standard, or will Hanson’s version get chopped and replaced with Andrew Siciliano’s version? Will the two work in tandem on a combined RedZone? Or will YouTube essentially make their own version of RedZone for YouTube TV subscribers, much like DirecTV did?
However, it does appear that RedZone will continue to exist in some form. In their release announcing the deal with Google, the NFL noted that the league’s carriage agreement with YouTube TV for both NFL Network and RedZone has been extended. I feel that if RedZone was being eliminated, the league would have worded that part of the release differently.
How much is YouTube’s Sunday Ticket going to cost?
Oh yeah, the whole “pricing” thing. Pricing wasn’t announced on Thursday, and likely won’t be for quite some time. But how much thing service will now cost is a big question going forward. Will Google stick to the $300/season bar DirecTV has run with the last few seasons? Will they go higher in an attempt to recoup some of the billions the company is paying the league, or will they go lower in order to bring in more subscribers?
Will there be different packages, as mentioned earlier, available? If so, what will they run? We really have no idea, and can only base potential pricing for single team, single week or single game plans on the packages offered by other leagues.
Finally, will there be discounts for new and existing YouTube TV subscribers compared to those who subscribe through YouTube’s Primetime Channels offering? DirecTV famously gave away Sunday Ticket subscriptions to their new and existing subscribers, and I’m very interested to see if that gravy train keeps rolling along with YouTube. Given the company’s desire to add subscribers to YouTube TV, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there was discounting involved with signing up with a YouTube TV account.
Is the NFL going to find an investor in its media operations?
Finally, there’s the NFL’s ongoing hunt for an investor in its media operations. Originally, it was speculated that the NFL would pair Sunday Ticket with the media investment. That hasn’t happened, and the league is still seeking that investment in NFL Media. Several parties have been rumored (Amazon, Apple, Netflix), but nothing has gotten off the ground quite yet.
With the latest round of media rights deals signed, sealed, and delivered and Sunday Ticket finally taken care of, NFL Media is really the last card the league has to play to maximize revenue before the end of the decade. It’s also the last opportunity in the near future for a company to get a foot in the door with the NFL from a media standpoint. Would Apple really be satisfied with only being the Super Bowl halftime show sponsor, despite all the links to the league in recent months? It’s the last shot for both the league and possible partners, and they’ll want it to count.