In March, questions swirled surrounding what would be next for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. The NFL was reportedly considering opting out from their agreement with DirecTV after the 2019 season (the two sides signed a $1.5 billion/year extension in 2014 through 2022) and DirecTV has even modified their contract language to reflect that they may not be able to offer the package after 2019. Furthermore, a Bloomberg report suggested that DirecTV’s exclusivity might soon come to an end, with the league letting them keep their package but then also selling Sunday Ticket online elsewhere.
There’s also that bit of trouble that went down in April when subscribers for DirecTV, as well as AT&T U-Verse TV, lost access to NFL Network. At the time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said “We’re having great discussions with DirecTV and AT&T. We’ve had a 25-year partnership and we want to continue that partnership, but we also are looking to see how we can change the delivery.” Which certainly sounds like a very business-speak way of saying, “we’d like to explore our options.”
Since then there has been plenty of speculation about who might want to grab NFL Sunday Ticket if and when it becomes available, be it next year or in three years. One of the biggest potential suitors has been Disney, who not only has the deep pockets to make an offer but also has a company (ESPN) and a service (ESPN+) that would be an ideal host for it.
During Disney’s Q2 earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Bob Iger was asked if he would be interested in purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket and putting it on ESPN+ and he made it fairly clear that the answer, under the right financial conditions, would be yes.
When asked about the NFL's Sunday Ticket and if there would be a digital option, may it be a fit for the ESPN+ OTT service, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said there's been "some exploration." Added he's bullish on NFL and opps. to strengthen relationship with the league $DIS
— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) May 8, 2019
Iger’s full quote was, “there has been exploration whether there is an opportunity there. We are very bullish on the NFL.” And you don’t need to tell companies and brands like Pixar, Marvel, Fox, and Lucasfilm what happens when Disney is bullish about something.
It had been previously reported that Amazon and Google would also be interested in making a bid for Prime Video and YouTube, respectively. But going either route would be a bigger leap of faith for the NFL over working with Disney and ESPN, two behemoths they know understand how to put their product front and center. Of course, it’s not as though the NFL has shied away from streaming broadcasts in recent years, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility they’d consider a bolder strategy as well.