Why didn’t the Apple-NFL Sunday Ticket marriage work out?

Why didn’t it happen? NFL Taking a bite at Apple?

The NFL looks poised to seal another mega-media deal this week with the league close to selling its Sunday Ticket rights to Google’s YouTube and YouTube TV, moving its package of out-of-market games into the streaming universe.

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NFL close to deal with YouTube for Sunday Ticket rights

But it’s been a while since it would be Apple that took the popular Sunday Ticket fully into the digital universe (the current DirecTV allowed broadcasts in areas where satellite dishes were impossible). The NFL has been eager to do business with arguably the most important company in the world for much of the past year. tries to make it happen. And the deal seemed natural for Apple, which was trying to develop Apple TV Plus.

Earlier this year, the NFL sponsored Apple’s Super Bowl halftime show, but media talks fell through a few weeks ago. Why?

There are some clear answers. Apple reportedly wanted to pay less than what the NFL required so it could offer the product at lower prices than current DirecTV, but the NFL’s contracts with Fox and CBS didn’t allow it (lower Sunday ticket prices keep viewers from Sunday afternoon can then remove from network windows). DirecTV’s Sunday ticket deals start at around $300 for a season.


Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf at the 2020 NFL Sunday Ticket event. This will be the final season for the package on DirecTV, which has carried it since 1994. (Peter Barreras/Associated Press)

Also, Google’s media strategy is more robust than Apple’s, with YouTube TV a growing digital multi-channel platform and YouTube itself. with 2.5 billion monthly users.

“Other tech companies are more advanced where they are with their business models for media, for broadcasting,” said one person close to the NFL. “Apple is far ahead in music and media, but other firms, you know, Amazon are further ahead. Google and YouTube are far away. Apple is really behind.”

Apple and the NFL also couldn’t agree on whether the company should acquire the rights to distribute Sunday Ticket on platforms that don’t yet exist. Apple is investing heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, new platforms where sports have been largely unseen until now. As a result, Apple asked for what are called known and unknown rights, according to people familiar with the NFL and Apple. In other words, there is no known virtual reality market for Sunday Ticket, but there may be one day.

Imagine a virtual reality device that offers fans a Sunday Ticket experience as if they were watching from 50-yard seats, said Tom Richardson, senior vice president of Mercury Intermedia and assistant professor in Columbia University’s sports management program. Such a platform may seem a long way off, but Richardson says it’s coming in the next 24 months.

“It’s a well-known fact that Apple is on the verge of making big strides in AR and VR,” Richardson said. “And it’s been prevalent in the last couple of years, maybe ’23. So I suspect that when they’re looking at multi-year deals … you’re looking at what could be a very different technology environment, the consumer electronics environment, at this point by the end of the decade, which will certainly have a lot of potential growth. huge growth in the world of immersive media experiences.”

In the 1990s, Richardson worked for the NFL and NHL, and recalled similar situations in the emerging digital world when companies asked whether it was OK to display the media rights in question “on everything.” And as it stands now, the answer was no.

“The league doesn’t like to compromise, and Apple, as a two-and-a-half-trillion-dollar company, they have their own way of doing business, no matter what.”

Apple’s deal with Major League Soccer to broadcast all of its games is believed to have open-ended language in its contract. MLS did not respond to comment.

Why does the NFL not agree to the “undisclosed” language in the contract? First, he has never done business in this way, giving up rights beyond those specifically defined. At the same time, it may view AR and VR future platforms as new media categories worthy of separate deals.

It was not possible to determine where the pending Google deal would fall on the matter, but given the stalemate between the NFL and Apple, it’s hard to see the league giving way. Google has its own AR and VR efforts.

Apple too asked about broader rights was available.

Former Fox Sports executive Patrick Crakes said Apple and the NFL were never on the same page. “So (Apple) kept learning things, like, ‘Okay, we want to work for a five-year period.’ ‘No, you have to do a 10-year period.’ “We want worldwide rights.” ‘No, you can’t have them.’ “We need some exclusivity.” ‘No.'”

The value of a Sunday ticket has also declined for fans over the years, as more games that were previously broadcast only locally — and thus made the away package valuable to fans outside of their team’s market — have declined with more national windows.

“When Sunday Ticket came out (in 1994), there were obviously important games you were going to miss every week,” Krakes said. “Well, now we have, you know, three or four national windows at the end of the year. You have games on Saturday, you have games on Christmas. I mean, all these games are everywhere and you have flexible scheduling that makes sure the biggest and best games end up, you know, Sunday Night Football of course, next year we’re starting to get it with Monday Night Football.”

When DirecTV launched Sunday Ticket nearly 30 years ago, there was no Thursday Night Football away from its slate of Sunday afternoon contests or the NFL Network, which had a few exclusive games. Those TNF games are now being streamed by Amazon, giving the Sunday ticket a late boost.

The NFL was looking for more than the average $1.5 billion it receives annually from DirecTV, a number that many pundits lamented as the satellite carrier losing money to the low number. But a report in the SportsBusiness Journal on Wednesday said the NFL is making $2.5 billion (it’s unclear if that includes the bar and restaurant market, which could be cut from the deal).

It wasn’t the first time the NFL had caught experts by surprise. When the league bought the TNF package, it was making about $650 million a year, and incumbent Fox and other traditional players weren’t bidding. Amazon has proven the power of NFL content by making it $1.1 billion a year.

One thing is clear: Apple, which created the home computer market and then the smartphone business, will be fine and will find other ways to develop Apple TV Plus without the flashy appeal of the NFL.

“Apple is Apple,” said Richardson, who wrote for what he described as Apple magazine in the 1980s. “And they always get it.”

(Top photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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