Apple still in ‘early talks with NFL about acquiring the rights to Sunday Ticket games

We’ve heard a few times that Apple has been in preliminary discussions with the NFL about acquiring the rights to its Sunday Ticket games. Now a new report from The Information says that “early talks” are continuing with a hint that Apple could be more serious about a deal.

We first heard about Apple being interested enough to talk with the NFL about buying the Sunday Ticket streaming rights back in January. The out-of-market NFL package is currently offered through DirecTV but the provider is giving up its rights after the 2022 season.

A few months later, we heard more analysts say the same with some optimism that it could be a good fit for Apple TV+. However, we also heard the opposite from CBS Sports veteran Neal Pilson.

Former CBS Sports boss and media consultant Neal Pilson told the Athletic that he believes Sunday Ticket will go digital, but “probably not Amazon or Apple.”

Today’s report from The Information says that Apple is still in “early talks” with the NFL about acquiring the Sunday Ticket rights and that it still isn’t seen as the most serious potential bidder, but that may be changing.

Still, there are signs Apple’s attitude to programming investment may be changing. Last year, Apple hired James DeLorenzo to run its sports division for Apple TV+. DeLorenzo came from Amazon, where as head of sports for Amazon Video, he negotiated Amazon’s initial deal with the NFL to stream live games. The move suggests Apple is taking a closer look at bringing live sports into its still-fledgling streaming business.

DirecTV allegedly pays $1.5 billion a year for Sunday Ticket rights and the NFL is expected to charge even more for the next buyer. Further, DirecTV is said to be losing money on its time holding the rights – up to $2.5 billion.

It’s unclear how Apple would approach NFL Sunday Ticket if it did buy the rights, but it’s possible it would be an add-on to the regular $4.99/month Apple TV+ cost.

One of the biggest advantages for Apple pursuing a deal like this would be getting exposure to a much bigger audience.

Getting the rights to the Sunday Ticket could broaden the audience for Apple TV+. The Sunday Ticket service complements games shown on broadcast TV networks and Amazon. While those games show local matches, Sunday Ticket games feature teams that are not available on the local Sunday afternoon NFL broadcast in their area. The product appeals to viewers who live far from the home of their favorite football team. It is also geared toward sports bars seeking to draw in fans of teams from other cities and states.

Both Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are at the Sun Valley media conference with progress on a Sunday Ticket deal on Goodell’s agenda.

Notably, others interested in NFL’s Sunday Ticket include Disney and possibly Amazon alongside other more traditional media companies.