Apple passes up NFL Sunday Ticket - report

Apple, once rumored to be the frontrunner for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket, has reportedly backed out of negotiations for the sports package.

Per Pro Football Talk, Puck’s Dylan Byers relayed the information in a column last Friday, noting Apple’s exit means Amazon and Google are now the top contenders for Sunday Ticket streaming rights.

“I’m now told that Apple, once seen as a frontrunner for the rights, has also backed out of those negotiations — not because they can’t afford it, but because they don’t see the logic,” Byers wrote.

He added if Amazon snagged the Sunday Ticket, the company can use it to drive Prime subscriptions. Whereas Google can leverage the sports rights to fuel its YouTube TV business.

It was Byers who flagged Apple as the likely Sunday Ticket winner back in July, with the company looking to pay nearly $3 billion for the football package. The $3 billion sum apparently pushed Disney, who was reportedly unwilling to pay as much as Amazon or Apple, out of the running.

The NFL itself hasn’t disclosed much on how negotiations are unfolding, nor when they are likely to be concluded. But league commissioner Roger Goodell said last week negotiations reached a “critical point” and the NFL’s decision will not be based on timelines but “the best outcome with the best party.”

Further media reports from October suggested negotiations between Apple and the NFL reached a standstill, as the tech giant was looking to get a deal broader than the existing arrangement with DirecTV. Allegedly, Apple wanted to carry local games and offer the Sunday Ticket outside the U.S. But such a deal would conflict with the NFL’s broadcast-carriage contracts.

DirecTV is currently paying $1.5 billion per year for the Sunday Ticket package, with its coverage only available within the U.S. The pay TV provider’s rights will expire at the end of this NFL season on January 8. DirecTV customers have not been entirely thrilled with this year’s Sunday Ticket stream, as they have reported numerous technical glitches when trying to watch the games.

Should Amazon come away with the rights, they would enhance the streamer’s existing 11-year deal to host the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. Amazon’s TNF rights officially kicked in on September 15, after which the company boasted a record number of new Prime subscribers.

Viewership-wise, TNF averaged 10.8 million viewers in its first five games on Prime Video. And Amazon has sweetened the TNF deal, as starting next year it will stream an extra NFL game on Black Friday.

As for Google, not much is known about the company’s Sunday Ticket ambitions. But YouTube does have a sports streaming notch under its belt, renewing last spring an agreement with Major League Baseball.

Though Apple may be losing out on the Sunday Ticket, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in sports streaming rights. Last spring, Apple began streaming the MLB’s Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+ – marking the tech giant’s first foray into live sports. In June, it inked a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer to live stream games on the forthcoming MLS streaming service – exclusively available on Apple TV.