The National Football League’s popular Sunday Ticket package for out-of-town games is moving to Alphabet’s YouTube next season.
It’s a big change and part of a broader shift with sports programming moving increasingly online and away from traditional TV networks. Since its inception in 1994, Sunday Ticket has been available only on DirecTV’s satellite service. YouTube will take over those exclusive rights for the next seven years at a reported cost of more than $2 billion annually, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.
So what does all this mean for fans of America’s favorite sport?
How will I be able to watch NFL Sunday Ticket ?
The package will be available as both an add-on to YouTube TV, an online service that is an alternative to cable TV, and as a standalone service through YouTube Primetime Channels, which allows viewers to subscribe directly to pay-TV channels like Showtime and Starz.
What’s the cost for streaming Sunday Ticket on YouTube TV?
Alphabet hasn’t disclosed its pricing plans yet but the basic YouTube TV service currently costs $65 a month. DirecTV charged about $300 for the Sunday Ticket package at the start of the NFL season. The big difference for sports fans going forward is that YouTube will offer Sunday Ticket as a standalone product. DirecTV required a subscription to its satellite TV service, unless you lived in a multi-unit residence or somewhere that couldn’t get the company’s signal.
Will my favorite bar still show NFL games on Sundays?
Probably, though the details are still being worked out. The NFL has retained the commercial rights to show Sunday Ticket games to bars and restaurants and could sell that to another company, according to the person familiar.
DirecTV hopes it can be still be involved in airing games in those locations since it already has relationships there. The company recently made a similar arrangement with Amazon.com Inc. for its Thursday Night Football broadcast.
Why is this change happening?
DirecTV has been losing money on Sunday Ticket for years. It has about 2 million subscribers to the package, but it was paying $1.5 billion a year for rights to show the games. That fee was expected to go up in the latest contract negotiations so the satellite-TV company, which is owned by AT&T Inc. and the private equity firm TPG Inc., decided to call it quits.
However, DirecTV hopes it can still be of use to YouTube. The company is interested in cutting a side deal where it would help move current subscribers to the new online service and in the process maintain a relationship with those customers. DirecTV is also interested in reselling Sunday Ticket to rural customers who don’t have strong enough internet to stream the games on YouTube.
Why is the NFL now putting its games online?
Outside of the higher price YouTube was willing to pay, the league has been moving some of its games to streaming services, recognizing that consumers are canceling traditional pay-TV packages and migrating to digital options. Amazon currently airs Thursday night football and broadcasters like NBC and CBS are offering more games on their related streaming services.