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DirecTV may give up 'NFL Sunday Ticket' as subscribers dwindle: Report

Thomas Barrabi

AT&T-owned DirecTV may give up its longtime hold on exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package when its deal expires after the 2022 season, according to a report on Friday.

DirecTV has controlled rights to the service, which allows subscribers to watch nearly every game on the NFL schedule, for more than two decades. Once the crown jewel of DirecTV’s offerings, the package has become less valuable as more customers cut the cord and ditch traditional cable for cheaper streaming platforms, according to AT&T COO John Stankey, who told the Wall Street Journal the service offers “less profitability” than it once did.

“I don’t think we look at that and say it’s a growth product,” Stankey said. “I don’t think we’re going to wake up a year from now and suddenly there’s going to be more people in the United States that want to watch an out-of-market team.”

DirecTV is said to pay an average annual fee of $1.5 billion for exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, but loses more than $500 million each year on the deal, the Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. The service has roughly two million paid subscribers.

An NFL representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Stankey’s remarks.

NFL executives have experimented with streaming deals in recent years, selling digital rights to “Thursday Night Football” to Amazon. NBC News reported last April that the league was considering splitting rights to Sunday Ticket between DirecTV and a streaming platform.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in August that tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Amazon were in early discussions for expanded broadcast partnerships when the league’s current deals expire.

“I do firmly believe that these other platforms are going to be players in future negotiations. And, frankly, they are in current negotiations,” Goodell told Sports Business Journal at the time.

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