The NFL’s attempts to sell a stake in NFL Media seem likely to continue on past the end of the year, but the wheels do appear to be in motion for a sale.
Speaking to the Sports Business Journal, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that discussions with various companies were underway, but a finalized agreement wasn’t imminent.
While the NFL could bank billions of dollars by simply selling an equity share in the entire NFL Media enterprise, the conversations with suitors have taken on a range of “creative ideas,” and evaluating the degree of alignment with the NFL’s interests takes time, Goodell said. “We’re confident we’ll get there,” he said. “My guess is we’re months away, not days away.”
As for the future of NFL Sunday Ticket, Goodell seemed ambivalent about whether or not the package’s rights would be included in the NFL Media sale.
When asked if the Sunday Ticket rights were necessarily bundled with the NFL Media asset sale, Goodell said: “No, I would say we retain the rights to engage on any one of those pieces, whatever I would call media assets. They don’t have to go together, they might, they might not.”
Earlier this year, reports emerged that the NFL was looking for investors in the league’s media operations, which include NFL Network. And then a month ago, Amazon was reported as a front-runner for the Sunday Ticket rights and a minority stake in the NFL’s media operations. If the NFL wanted to bundle a media operations deal together with Sunday Ticket, they might end up limiting their potential investors *and* their potential investment. And while that would clearly be appealing to a company like Amazon, theoretically in the mix for both, it would also take plenty of other outlets only interested in Sunday Ticket out of the running.
In my opinion, the ideal situation for the NFL is for a company (Amazon, more likely than not) to buy in to the media operations side, and for a non-exclusive Sunday Ticket deal to get done with DirecTV (the standard satellite package) and the streamer that ponies up the most cash (take your pick – Amazon, ESPN+, Paramount+, Peacock). That seems like the best way to maximize the financial return for the NFL while also not alienating broadcast partners by tying Sunday Ticket to another sizeable investment.