Emboldened by their deep pockets and eager to boost viewership of their streaming-subscription services, Apple and Amazon have thrust themselves into negotiations for media rights held by the NFL, MLB, Formula One racing and college conferences.
They are competing to replace DirecTV for the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, a package the league wants to sell for more than $2.5 billion annually, about $1 billion more than it currently costs, according to five people familiar with the process. Eager not to miss out, Google has also offered a bid from YouTube for the rights beginning in 2023, two people familiar with the offer said.
The NFL Sunday Ticket package — which shows out-of-market Sunday NFL games that aren’t being shown on local television — is available because DirecTV chose not to bid. It has been losing as much as $500 million annually on the package, though it has also benefited from a reliable base of about 2 million subscribers.
Apple is considered the front-runner, according to a dozen people in the sports, media and tech industries. But a final deal has been delayed by negotiations over a concurrent sale of NFL media assets, including the NFL Network, RedZone channel and NFL+, a new subscription service that provides access to live games on mobile devices.
Apple has made winning the package a priority. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has met with league officials and influential team owners, according to three people familiar with the process. Apple declined to comment.
Still, Amazon, ESPN+ and YouTube, which explored a bid for the rights in 2014, remain in the hunt, some of these people said. Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer, said in a statement that the league expects to finalize a deal in the coming months.
Fans will still be able to access all the games on Sundays, regardless of who wins the rights, but they will probably pay a premium to add the service to their Apple, Amazon, ESPN+ or YouTube service, some of the dozen people said. It is not yet clear if that premium would be more or less than the $294 that DirecTV charges for a year, they added.