Sources: Goodell Meets With Google, YouTube Execs To Discuss Sunday Ticket Package
The NFL's Sunday Ticket package was "among the topics of discussion" yesterday when Google CEO & co-Founder Larry Page, alongside YouTube Head of Content & Business Operations Robert Kyncl, "met with a delegation from the NFL led by commissioner Roger Goodell," according to sources cited by Peter Kafka of ALL THINGS DIGITAL. Sources said that Goodell and other NFL execs are "meeting with multiple Silicon Valley companies on this trip, which is one they make annually." Google "could certainly afford the rights" to the package, which currently costs DirecTV $1B a year. Google has been "playing around the edges of TV without making a substantial dent," but an NFL deal "could certainly change that." The NFL "seems willing to consider an 'over the top' provider for the service, which it views as ancillary to the core TV packages it has sold to CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 8/20). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai notes, "Google has deep pockets, and its online video site YouTube has been focusing on more professional content, which has meant the companies' names have come up as possible bidders in recent sports rights deals" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/21). CNBC's Jim Cramer said acquiring the rights would "be huge for Google, and they can write the check." Cramer: "This is the story to follow. ... This is remarkable if they'd be willing to do this because it would undercut everybody. Is this the beginning of when Google will charge, because you've got to charge for that product to monetize it?" Cramer said "people will pay for football" and if Google does acquire the rights, "this is going to change our perception of Google" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/21).
GOOGLE HAS A GOOD SHOT: Albert Fried & Company Dir of Research Rich Tullo said Google "has a really good shot" to acquire NFL rights. Tullo: "It's not just about money. It's about building a business plan around the assets ... One thing about Google is they own YouTube. YouTube is all about serial viewing. If you look at Sunday Ticket, what is that? That's serial viewing. Second point is Google and the NFL can really help each other out a lot. The NFL wants to drive ticket sales at the stadiums." Several teams are building fantasy football lounges in their stadiums, and Google "can take over that enterprise and help the NFL fill the stadiums." Tullo added that Google "is in a good position with the Cloud TV" to be able to "resell it to the MSOs and expand the platform," with Google being a "global platform" while DirecTV is not in every market around the world." Tullo: "Ultimately what Google is doing is creating a tent pole for itself to land in TV." CNBC's Julia Boorstin noted the NFL "wants to increase" the rights fee they will paid for the Sunday Ticket package, so it "makes sense for them to talk to everyone right now." Boorstin: "It's an interesting opportunity to talk to a digital distributor like Google, and they're interested in that possibility. But I think this is far from a done deal and I think we have to remember that they are still in talks with DirecTV, and DirecTV does not want to lose this asset. Having NFL Sunday Ticket really did help put DirecTV on the map and I bet they'll fight to keep it" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/21).
IS NETFLIX NEXT? MEDIA POST's P.J. Bednarski wrote, "If Netflix gets into the sports business, at the very least, players will continue to be assured enormous paychecks." Netflix "could and would pay a fortune for rights." Bednarski: "Happily, for leagues, so will ESPN, Fox and all the rest." The online streaming service in the meantime can "niche away, picking off other live sports events that nobody much really cares about, in the very big picture." HBO’s "earliest successes were with boxing" (MEDIAPOST.com, 8/20). ALL THINGS DIGITAL's Ben Elowitz noted, "Live events are what cable and broadcast TV have that Netflix doesn’t: News, talk shows and -- most important -- sports." Netflix "won't need to spend a billion dollars on NFL rights." It "could start organically" instead with "voracious consumers" of Pelé and David Beckham documentaries. They "would certainly be an easy target for a new offering of pro soccer matches." Just as HBO "started with hockey, bowling and wrestling, Netflix could insert the thin edge of the wedge under various niche interests -- and as the audience expands, so can the programming." With TV network ratings "shrinking these days, at what point does Netflix surpass NBC in viewership and become a credible bidder for streaming rights to the Olympics?" If Netflix can "capture an even greater share of viewers’ consumption hours, it’ll be all the more able to justify raising subscription fees in the future." A certain segment of the audience "would surely pay a few extra dollars per month for a live streaming pass to view all NHL games" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 8/19).