National Football League TV rights are up for grabs and billions of dollars will change hands as the major networks fight it out once again. The rights for Monday Night Football are licensed until 2021. The rights held by Fox, CBS and NBC last till 2022. The different rights to host Thursday Night Football, Monday Night Football and the pricey Sunday Ticket will be available soon enough and there is a real probability of the status quo being challenged, that is if the league is interested in a transformation of how it is broadcast and streamed.
Fox is presently paying six hundred million dollars a year and subsequently three billion dollars for the five years it has the rights for. ESPN is coughing out nearly two billion dollars a year for its rights. NBC too is shelling out big bucks. With tens of billions of dollars at stake, is it possible for NFL to bid adieu to the Sunday Ticket and just broadcast all its games on normal television. It would be exactly what happens with college football.
Andrew Marchant recently reported that after a long time ABC is aiming for a real chance at bagging the rights. ABC is eyeing for the Sunday afternoon package. Their success will directly impact CBS and Fox. ESPN and ABC have been longing to get into the cycle of Super Bowl for quite some time now but CBS is unlikely to play nice. Fox is at a considerably more advantageous position. It has a longstanding relationship with the National Football League that has been mutually beneficial. Fox is unlikely to lose their rights to Thursday Night Football. But no one can infer with certainty in a dynamically changing landscape. Broadcasting and streaming have undergone substantial changes in the last few years.
Viewers are coming up with more convenient ways to read more about and watch sports on TV. NFL is going to entertain bids from more than one network. It is always pragmatic to have options. There will be a decision to make and it will either go in favor of CBS and/or Fox or ACB will be able to make a dent. There is of course a third possibility. NFL can come up with a tranche for networks and do away with the exclusive Sunday Ticket on DirecTV. This will enable the league to air most of the games on cable and broadcast. There can be a combination for Sundays.
Getting rid of the exclusive and expensive Sunday Ticket will get viewers to access the NFL games on Fox, ABC, CBS, FS1 and FS2, ESPN and ESPN2, CBSSN and of course NFL Network. If such a scenario comes to pass, the league can very well go ahead and add the games in London for an exclusive broadcast on ESPN+. The games may also be streamed on Amazon or DAZN. Many viewers will be willing to pay a bit more for such convenient access, especially when one will not be compelled to pay the steep prices to DirecTV.
In the realignment, NBC will get to keep its rights to broadcast Sunday Night Football and the rights for Monday Night Football will be retained by ESPN. NFL has a perfect opportunity to get rid of Sunday Ticket. Their contract with DirecTV has a provision where the league can get out of their deal after the next season is over. The switch will be in the best interests of the audience. It will definitely be hailed as subscriber friendly. It is true that the league will lose some audience for its games on Sunday afternoons, which are among the biggest sporting events, but there is also the real possibility of a phenomenal increase in aggregated viewership.
DirecTV has been having a tough time and one of the reasons it has managed to survive or stay afloat is the Sunday Ticket. Many subscribers are still paying their hard earned money to DirecTV because of the Sunday Ticket. There is no other reason to continue with its subscription, especially when cable bundles are offering so much for substantially less money. Many people are still paying their cable operator for broadband anyway. It only makes sense to go for their television subscription as well. DirecTV satellite subscribers have been unhappy for a long time now. The merger of its parent organization AT&T with Time Warner and consequently Turner Sports is stuck and there is no respite in sight. DirecTV is losing subscribers already. It is only a matter of time before NFL considers reviewing the Sunday Ticket deal with the provider. Instead of waiting and maintaining the status quo, NFL can simply rewrite the rules of the game right now.
Ardent fans cannot do without the Sunday Ticket. DirecTV knows this and so does NFL. Other broadcasters are also aware. There could be serious lobbying at play and of course self-interests drive most such strategies. However, it will be in the best interest of NFL to make the league and all its games more accessible for the general subscribers and across more platforms, be it traditional channels or broadcasting and live streaming on digital platforms. DirecTV will be bidding for its exclusive rights once again. Perhaps they are outbid or NFL simply makes an offer they cannot help but refuse.
There has already been some noise about such a possibility and many in the corridors of influence do not want such a switch to come by. The networks do not want this to happen. The league too seems to be uninterested at the moment. The standpoints may change subjected to the popular sentiment. Should DirecTV nosedive and streaming platforms become much more pragmatic alternatives for an increasing larger audience, the league and the networks may be compelled to change their views. At the end of the day, it is about viewership and that is what drives the billions. Rarely will anyone tinker with such a prized product unless there is an absolute compulsion to consider an alternative.