NFL Courts New Sunday Ticket Streaming Partners, Irks AT&T
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is "courting new streaming partners like Amazon and Disney for NFL Sunday Ticket, straining an exclusive 25-year relationship with AT&T and setting the stage for a landmark shift" in the league's sports rights, according to Dylan Byers of NBC NEWS. Sunday Ticket, which offers "access to the full slate of NFL games, could be the X factor for a major media company vying for preeminence in the new streaming era." Sources said that Disney and Amazon are the "top prospective buyers," as Google has "wavered and Netflix has taken a hard pass." Sources added that the NFL's plan to "break the 25-year exclusivity deal is not playing well" with AT&T Chair & CEO Randall Stephenson, as "evidenced by the recent fight over the NFL Network." AT&T announced this week that it was "dropping the NFL Network from DirecTV Now and U-Verse, apparently without making any effort to negotiate." Meanwhile, the NFL is "working with AT&T's competitor Verizon to create 5G services like games and AR experiences for fans." The "heightened tensions" between the league and AT&T are a "sign of the times, and a sign of what's to come." Sunday Ticket will likely go to the "highest bidder, whether that's Disney or Amazon ... or AT&T" (BYERS MARKET, 4/18).
PULLING THE PLUG: The NFL was caught off guard when AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV Now dropped NFL Network earlier this week. A league spokesperson in a statement said the NFL “never heard a word" until the network and RedZone channel were pulled. A source said he saw this as a negotiating ploy by AT&T, which is in talks about a new deal for Sunday Ticket. AT&T’s move is seen as a last-ditch effort to try and bundle NFL Net distribution with a new Sunday Ticket deal. AT&T’s message to the league: if you take Sunday Ticket away from us, there’s no guarantee that we will carry your linear channels (John Ourand, SBJ Media).