Last year, the NFL secured broadcast rights with NBC, Fox, Disney, CBS and Amazon to take the league through the end of the 2033 season. Now, the NFL appears to have found a sixth partner: Apple.
Matt Belloni reported in his Puck newsletter over the weekend that Apple is the clear frontrunner to land NFL Sunday Ticket, a package that gives subscribers access to all out-of-market matchups.
“My sources say it’s Apple’s to lose, at this point. (One source told me this weekend that the deal is actually done and is being kept quiet at Apple’s request, which I haven’t confirmed…),” Belloni reports.
Unless Apple negotiates an early release, AT&T/DirecTV plans to carry Sunday Ticket until the end of the 2022 season. Sunday Ticket, despite its appeal, turned out to be a miscalculation for DirecTV, which claims to have lost as much as $2.5 billion since 1994.
The NFL is also likely to charge Apple more than the $1.5 billion a year it charges DirecTV. But that won’t be an issue for Apple. Apple is trading at an almost $3 trillion valuation. That’s trillion. With a T.
In terms of streaming, Apple is playing a different game than its competitors, including those dabbling in sports: Amazon, Disney and Peacock. As Martin Peers of The Information noted last month, most streamers are trying to capture and hold onto every subscriber. Meanwhile, AppleTV+ just wants programming that “enhances its brand.”
Apple doesn’t need to meet a certain number of subscribers to appease internal goals. Apple makes so much money from its products — iPhones, MacBooks, AirPods — that its streaming business is a mere side project. Apple’s annual revenues are 12 times that of Netflix. This is why Apple put in the resources to promote the film CODA to be the first streaming service to win Best Picture, while Netflix has to focus on quantity.
So Apple doesn’t much care if Sunday Ticket loses money, as long as it and Friday Night Baseball bolster its reputation as a sports platform.
And for those worried that Apple will use baseball “analyst” Katie Nolan as an NFL “analyst” too, don’t you worry. Sunday Ticket carries live feeds from Fox and CBS. Therefore Apple wouldn’t need to hire its own NFL broadcasters. At most, Apple would have to decide whether to keep Andrew Siciliano as the sole host of the Sunday Ticket Red Zone Channel (separate from the NFL Network version of the show.) Hopefully, it does. Siciliano is excellent.
The old-timers may complain about having to learn what an Amazon Prime Video is by the start of Thursday Night Football in September, but the NFL doesn’t care. Professional sports leagues want that streaming money. So either get with the times and buy a Roku or miss the games entirely.
Apple first changed the way we use our phones, and it now hopes to change the way we consume sports.