NFL Sunday Ticket goes to YouTube, YouTube TV

The NFL’s coveted Sunday Ticket officially has a new home, with Google’s YouTube announcing Thursday that starting with the 2023 season all of the league’s out-of-market Sunday afternoon games will be exclusively available in the U.S. on vMVPD YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels.

The multi-year deal puts to rest the long running question of where the Sunday Ticket would land, and confirms Wednesday reports that Google was closing in on clinching the sports rights. Amazon and Apple had been other contenders vying for rights to the popular football game package, with the latter once seen as the frontrunner but apparently bowing out earlier in the week leaving e-commerce giant Amazon as the remaining challenger. Amazon already has rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, which started streaming on Prime Video this fall.

The NFL Sunday Ticket will be available as an add-on package for live streaming TV service YouTube TV (which as a vMVPD is more akin to a traditional pay TV service, offering over 100 channels), as well as standalone a-la-carte on YouTube Primetime Channels. YouTube Primetime Channels is a subscription streaming aggregator service that YouTube recently launched, allowing viewers to subscribe, manage and watch premium subscriptions directly from the YouTube platform and app, currently with over 30 channels.

YouTube hasn’t yet disclosed how much it will charge for the add-on and a-la-carte options.

As part of the expanded relationship, an agreement for YouTube TV to carry the NFL Network and NFL RedZone has also been extended.

With YouTube’s deal completed for Sunday Ticket, viewers will be able to see all out-of-market Sunday regular-season NFL games broadcast on Fox and CBS. YouTube said the partnership will give fans greater access to NFL Sunday Ticket while also leveraging YouTube’s technology and product innovation, with updated features and functionality to be disclosed ahead of the 2023 season.

“YouTube has long been a home for football fans, whether they’re streaming live games, keeping up with their home team, or watching the best plays in highlights,” said Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, in a statement. “Through this expanded partnership with the NFL, viewers will now also be able to experience the game they love in compelling and innovative ways through YouTube TV or YouTube Primetime Channels.”

In announcing the deal, NFL Commissioner pointed to a desire to increase digital distribution of the league’s games.

"We’re excited to bring NFL Sunday Ticket to YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels and usher in a new era of how fans across the United States watch and follow the NFL," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. "For a number of years we have been focused on increased digital distribution of our games and this partnership is yet another example of us looking towards the future and building the next generation of NFL fans."

The NFL Sunday Ticket debuted in 1994 and has been distributed by satellite provider DirecTV ever since.  DirecTV has currently been paying $1.5 billion per year for the package, and various reports have suggested new rights would likely be valued much higher, potentially at $2.5 billion annually. YouTube didn’t officially disclose terms, including price or length, for the multi-year deal, but the WSJ reported YouTube will pay an average annual price of roughly $2 billion for seven years.

YouTube said it will work together with the NFL to figure out additional ways to distribute Sunday Ticket in places like bars and restaurants. After Amazon Prime nabbed Thursday Night Football rights, the company inked a multi-year deal with DirecTV to bring TNF games to 300,000 commercial locations and venues through the satellite provider’s DirecTV for business service.

Engaging a younger and broader audiences for NFL games looks to be a key aim for the league through its partnership with YouTube, including internationally (although Sunday Ticket rights are for the U.S.)

The official NFL channel on YouTube in 2015 and on Thursday YouTube said that as part of the new agreement the partners have a broader commitment to engage the NFL’s international fanbase, including increased content on the NFL channel, creation of an NFL International show on YouTube, and forming a creator content program for select top YouTube creators globally.

"As the ways fans enjoy NFL football evolve in a changing media landscape, partnerships with innovators like YouTube will ensure that more games are available to more fans, said Robert Kraft, Owner of the New England Patriots and Chairman of the NFL’s Media Committee. “This partnership will grow our game for future generations and allow them to follow their favorite sport.”