Google lands NFL Sunday Ticket

Package was last NFL property still out on open market; heads to YouTube TV

After 29 seasons on DirecTV, NFL Sunday Ticket is on the move.

Google and the NFL announced an agreement Thursday with the tech giant acquiring the out-of-market package of games for an estimated $2 billion as an add-on option to existing YouTube TV subscriptions and a-la-carte for YouTube Primetime Channels. Both are offshoots of the popular video streaming portal, founded in February 2005 and acquired by Google in November 2006. Looking to join the cord-cutting revolution, Google launched YouTube TV in April 2017 as a multichannel video programming distributor, or MVPD as an alternative to costly cable TV subscriptions.

Last month, YouTube Primetime Channels was launched, where viewers can subscribe to streaming services through the portals. Channels on the service include Showtime, Starz, Paramount Plus, Vix Plus, AMC Plus, and more.

As part of the new Sunday Ticket deal, Google’s contracts for the NFL Network and NFL RedZone received extensions. The NFL Network produces a different version of RedZone (with Scott Hanson as host) for non-DirecTV subscribers as DirecTV produces its own with Andrew Siciliano as host; it will be discontinued January 8, the last regular season weekend on the NFL calendar. Some providers offer the NFL Network version of Red Zone as a standalone channel; it is unknown if this would continue under the new Google/YouTube pact.

“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,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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.”

“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 YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. “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. We’re excited to continue our work with the NFL to make YouTube a great place for sports lovers everywhere.”

The deal is strictly residential as the NFL and Google stated they would find a way to distribute NFL Sunday Ticket to business establishments, such as bars and restaurants. Earlier this year, DirecTV struck a deal with Amazon to carry Thursday Night Football on a special feed to such venues, and they may still be in the running for those rights.

After DirecTV announced it would not renew Sunday Ticket due to its cost, the package was put up for bids with Google, Amazon, Disney, and Apple among the front-runners. Apple dropped out earlier this week as it wasn’t able to come to terms to the NFL as the tech giant wanted global rights and no in-market blackouts similar to its recent MLS deal – terms the NFL wasn’t willing to make. This means you will not be able to watch Bears games on Sunday Ticket in the Chicago area due to both CBS and Fox having exclusivity rights for their owned stations in the team’s home market. Up until recently, Sunday Ticket was exclusive to DirecTV but was also made available as a streaming app to certain smart TV and PlayStation users.

Pricing wasn’t announced Thursday, but it was expected to be more than the $300 per year DirecTV subscribers were shelling out and even more if they were Sunday ticket Max subscribers, where they would also get the DirecTV version of Red Zone and Fantasy Stats channel.

(Editor’s Note: the fourth paragraph was updated at 5:52 p.m.)


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