An important element in rights deals and beyond is different jurisdictions. That can sometimes result in the same service offering notably different content across borders (as with the likes of Disney+ and Paramount+ in Canada), or it can result in a service having rights to air games in a country or territory but not actually airing them because it hasn’t yet launched there. The latter is what’s going on with Google/YouTube’s NFL Sunday Ticket in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (both unincorporated U.S. territories), as John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday:
A small skirmish has flared up between the NFL and its newest rights holder YouTube TV over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
SBJ's story: https://t.co/Qj7Eo7YFhA
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 6, 2023
Here’s more from that story:
Back in July, YouTube TV told the NFL that it will not be able to make that service available in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands until November at the earliest, sources said. Plus, YouTube TV is blocking an NFL-created plan to allow the former “NFL Sunday Ticket” rights holder, DirecTV, to provide the package to homes in those markets until YouTube TV can launch it.
The NFL/DirecTV plan here sounds somewhat reasonable. DirecTV was the previous holder of the Sunday Ticket package, and they continue to distribute Sunday Ticket to businesses (including bars and restaurants), so there’s an established relationship there. And it doesn’t seem very logical for this package to not be available at all in those territories for at least the first two months of the NFL season, if not longer. But there could be issues with how to handle the package changing hands in the middle of the season, and DirecTV tends to require longer-term commitments from its customers (for example, they’re offering to reimburse new customers who buy Sunday Ticket from YouTube, but those customers have to sign up for a two-year DirecTV contract), so perhaps YouTube’s thinking is that this interim solution might damage their YouTube TV market in these territories when they do launch.
At any rate, this isn’t the first time Sunday Ticket distribution or lack thereof in the U.S. Virgin Islands has become an issue. One particular time it came to light was in 2004, when current Premiere Networks talk host (who holds Rush Limbaugh’s old spot alongside Buck Sexton) and Outkick founder Clay Travis went on a pudding strike (eating only pudding) to protest the lack of DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket (specifically over the Tennessee Titans) in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (However, as that story notes, that service was available if residents bought and installed the equipment themselves.) So it’s amusing that DirecTV is now more available there, but Sunday Ticket access is still a problem.