NFL Sunday Ticket

Now that the 2021-2022 NFL season is over and Super Bowl LVI is behind us, the focus is back on where it matters most (to the league’s accountants), what will happen next with Sunday Ticket?

The NFL’s deal with DirecTV ends after the upcoming season and all signs point to the next one being a blockbuster. Just about every major player has been linked to “talks” over acquiring Sunday Ticket, including Disney, Apple, and Amazon. Warner Media Discovery, Comcast (who owns NBC and Peacock), Paramount Global, and Google have all been thrown out there as potential suitors as well.

Regardless of whether or not consumers think the package is worth the money, it would be a huge acquisition for any media partner, but especially one looking to establish a foothold with the lucrative NFL viewership base. That makes it a product worth paying for.

The numbers involved in recent NFL broadcast deals certainly back that up. Amazon established its relationship with the NFL by taking over the league’s Thursday Night Football telecast beginning next season with an 11-year deal worth $1.2 billion per year. Paramount and Fox are paying a little more than $2 billion per year for AFC and NFC games, respectively. And when you look at all the media rights deals together for CBS, ESPN/ABC, Fox, NBC, and Amazon, the total value comes out to around $10 billion per year. So we can expect a sizable number for Sunday Ticket as well.

Plenty of signs points to the NFL choosing a digital partner for the Sunday Ticket package of live out-of-market game broadcasts. The initial assumption would be to split packages for consumers that could still allow games to be shown in bars and restaurants, which is where Sunday Ticket is most popular. DirecTV was paying the NFL more than $1.5 billion per year for the rights, and previous reports have stated that the league is looking for as much as $2.5 billion annually in this new deal.

Given what we’ve seen from the other media rights deals, that number appears to be in line with what we might expect. However, over the weekend, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that “the winning bidder could pay as much as $7.5 billion per year,” an astounding number that would make Sunday Ticket nearly as valuable as all of the other NFL media rights.

“We’ve been unable to nail down that number,” wrote Florio. “It’s quite possible that, in the end, the league will have to choose between maximizing revenue and maximizing audience reach.”

Given the eyeball-popping nature of that number, we were curious where it came from. Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo reached out to PFT via Twitter and was told that “someone at CNBC threw it out there this week.”

We’ve been unable to verify who that might have been. The only CNBC-related numbers we can come up with is the aforementioned $2.5B/year figure that Alex Sherman quoted a source on back in September.

The NFL’s rights deal with Disney (ESPN/ABC) is $2.7 billion/year alone, and includes TV products way more valuable than what Sunday Ticket does, so the idea that this deal could end up being almost three times as big just seems out of whack.

That’s not to say that media rights aren’t constantly evolving and growing. Many people seem to think that the next round of Big Ten media rights will go for north of $1 billion/year, something unheard of just a few years ago.

And if you look at recent reports at the NBA’s next media right deal, some have thrown out a number in the range of $8 billion/year, which might give this report some credence. However, under that arrangement with Turner Sports and ESPN, we’re talking about all NBA rights, including regular-season games, playoffs, All-Star Weekend, and more. However, the Sunday Ticket deal is just those regular-season games, doesn’t include playoffs, and is competing directly with the local CBS/Fox games each Sunday. it’s hard to imagine Sunday Ticket is at that similar value.

The other aspect to all of this is the fact that for any network or company to invest that much money in Sunday Ticket, they would have to make drastic changes to their business model and spend on a level that most, if not all of them, are unwilling to do. According to a 2021 Hollywood Reporter breakdown, Disney’s estimated content spend across their entire portfolio was $24.5 billion. For Viacom/CBS (now Paramount), it was $15 billion. For Amazon, “just” $9 billion. A $7.5 billion/year investment in only Sunday Ticket seems entirely unreasonable in any of their cases.

And speaking of Amazon, they directly attributed the cost of that Thursday Night Football deal with the need to raise Amazon Prime subscription prices. Imagine how much they’d feel like they had to jack up those rates again if they paid a number like that.

All of which is to say that the NFL Sunday Ticket is going to fetch a lot of money. Don’t be surprised to see the final deal, in whatever form it takes, reach somewhere in the $2-3 billion/year range. Especially if, as PFT reports, the service evolves into something in which viewers can customize their Sunday Ticket experience based on teams or weeks in the season. But unless there is more to the arrangement or rights than the obvious, it’s hard to see how a number like $7.5 billion/year comes into play just yet.

[PFT, CNET]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.