Whether Apple has plans to expand Apple TV+ with live sports has been a common debate over the last two years. A new report from the Athletic today rounds up commentary from top media analysts on the potential for Apple TV+ to add NFL content.
The report explains that the NFL is on the verge of having to renew “most if not all of its media contracts.” While it appears that the Monday Night Football package is likely to remain with ESPN, there are other deals to consider, including NFL Sunday Ticket and Thursday Night Football.
For background here, DirecTV currently has the rights to the out-of-market NFL Sunday package, but it is not expected to renew. The NFL is also under pressure to expand NFL Sunday Ticket beyond satellite. 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.”
Analyst Lee Berke, however, isn’t so quick to write off Apple. Berke believes that Apple TV+ could be a viable Sunday Ticket distributor:
Also, with AT&T seemingly ready to move on from Sunday Ticket, streaming becomes a ready-made platform for handling Sunday Ticket’s bandwidth and traffic, with one or several streaming platforms, such as ESPN+, Paramount Plus, Peacock, and Prime ready to jump in to drive subscriptions. Also, don’t count out Apple TV+ as a Sunday Ticket distributor — they need to grow their subscriber base, they have enormous financial resources, and may be looking to add key sports properties to their mix.
Meanwhile, Daniel Cohen, the senior vice president of Octagon’s Global Media Rights Consulting division, says that it’s possible Thursday Night Football goes to Apple, but it’s less likely if Apple would be responsible for exclusively production.
“Thursday Night Football” is up for grabs across ESPN+, Amazon, and possibly Apple (though that’s less likely if they need to produce the games exclusively). A lot depends on whether the NFL decides to continue along the tricast/non-exclusive path.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Apple’s potential interest in bringing NFL content to Apple TV+. A report last year made it clear that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Apple CEO Tim Cook “talk.”
Apple was also said to have been involved in negotiations with the NFL for Thursday Night Football in 2016. Ultimately, the NFL ended up reaching a deal with Amazon, which was renewed for two more seasons in 2018 for a whopping $130 million.
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