It's no secret that Apple is in talks with the National Football League for streaming rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket. It's impossible to know yet if Apple will actually replace DirecTV as the new home of a valuable professional football package.
Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic cites several sources familiar with the NFL-Apple talks to give us an idea of the current state of affairs.
According to Kaplan, “Apple wants the rights to the unknown.” and that's what takes time to close a deal.
The report includes the following characterization of someone close to the NFL:
“Because that you should think not about how things are today, and not only about how things are tomorrow,” the man said. “But technologies that haven't even been invented yet, delivery systems that haven't even been invented yet, ways people want to consume that have never been invented.”
To some extent, this is correct, as the video streaming partner is replacing television distribution via satellite with DirecTV. However, the NFL is already offering its own streaming solution for smaller screens, and Amazon is streaming Thursday Football to Prime Video subscribers.
Apple may be looking to get the rights to stream NFL games with a more immersive effect thanks to its rumored , a mixed reality headset that the company plans to release in the spring. As we first reported, Apple has already enlisted VR sports experts with NextVR.
More one point of contention, not surprisingly, concerns the price of distribution rights. The NFL is reportedly valuing the package at $3.5 billion a year. That's $2 billion more than the loss that DirecTV pays out on average every year.
But there are limits to what the NFL sells, which changes value for Apple. The NFL price does not include international streaming rights and Apple will not be able to claim exclusivity over FOX and CBS for broadcast games in the market.
Compare this to the Major League Soccer deal entering next season, where Apple has ten years of full streaming rights with no limits. However, in terms of popularity, the NFL and MLS are a far cry from each other.
Apple made a much less comprehensive deal with Major League Baseball to only air two Friday games a week during last season. This shows that Apple wants to be one of the many distributors, but MLB games are streamed exclusively, including outside the US. >
Finally, Kaplan analyzes the economics of Apple if it got the rights to an NFL Sunday ticket:
Apple, for example, should register 8.75 million subscribers, each of whom will pay $400 for a Sunday ticket (and that's after they pay for the main Apple TV+ service). DirecTV is believed to have about 1 million paid Sunday Ticket subscribers.
Amazon and Disney's ESPN+ remain on the list, but Apple is said to remain the preferred partner. Now we continue to rush and wait for the deal to be finalized, hopefully before the 2022 Super Bowl season. Subscribers can read the full report on The Athletic.