Report: Apple pitched offering Sunday Ticket to TV+ subscribers for free, NFL said no

Apple is pushing ahead with its quest to acquire the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, but the deal might not be officially signed until 2023. A new report today indicates that Apple is “still expected to walk away” with the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, but a potential sticking point has emerged in the company’s negotiations with the NFL.

According to a new report from Sporty, Apple is the front-runner for the Sunday Ticket deal, but there have been some speedbumps in the negotiations with the NFL. For instance, the report says that the talks “have been complicated by the amount of cash Apple’s customers may be expected to throw down for a macOS-based Sunday Ticket product.”

At one point in the negotiations, Apple also apparently became “fixated” on including NFL Sunday Ticket as part of Apple TV+. This would mean, apparently, that Apple would offer NFL Sunday Ticket at “no additional charge” to Apple TV+ subscribers. The NFL, however, wasn’t a fan of this idea:

In a bid to drive subscribers to its Apple TV+ platform, which is a relative steal at $6.99 per month, the tech giant is said to be fixated on offering Sunday Ticket via its streaming service at no additional charge. That’s a far too magnanimous gesture for the NFL; it needs to protect the interests of its Sunday afternoon broadcast partners at CBS and Fox, which under the terms of the 2021 rights renewal will pay the league a combined $40 billion through the end of the 2033 season.

Today’s news follows a report from the The New York Times last month, which also said that negotiations may drag into early 2023. That report, however, said that Google has emerged as a potential front-runner for an NFL Sunday Ticket. Google reportedly wants to use Sunday Ticket as a way to boost its YouTube TV streaming service.

9to5Mac’s Take

I’m skeptical of this report. Whoever ultimately gains the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket is expected to shell out in the range of $2.5 billion to $3 billion per year. The notion that Apple would include the entirety of NFL Sunday Ticket with Apple TV+ for $6.99 per month feels absurd.

The best example of this is what Apple is doing with its new MLS partnership. Earlier this year, Apple acquired the exclusive streaming rights to Major League Soccer matches starting in 2023 through 2032. This deal with the MLS is far less expensive than the NFL Sunday Ticket for Apple.

Apple will charge $14.99 per month for what it’s calling the “MLS Season Pass.” Apple TV+ users will be able to subscribe to MLS Season Pass at a discounted rate of $12.99 per month or $79 per year. TV+ subscribers will also be able to watch selected games for free.

Apple could very well follow this same strategy with its NFL Sunday Ticket offering, giving Apple TV+ subscribers a discounted rate as well as access to some games or content at no additional charge. There is close to zero chance that Apple offers the entire NFL Sunday Ticket package to Apple TV+ users for free.

Ultimately, what all of these reports make clear is that it’s unlikely the NFL will ink a deal for the Sunday Ticket package before the end of the year. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had said this was the league’s goal, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that it will hit that target.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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