Apple Reportedly Wants Flexibility Over NFL Sunday Ticket Streaming Rights
Apple is rumored to be a frontrunner for streaming rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package, but CNBC today reported that "existing restrictions around Sunday Ticket have slowed negotiations between Apple and the NFL in recent months."
The report claims that Apple is not interested in "simply acting as a conduit for broadcasting games" and instead is seeking more comprehensive partnerships with sports leagues. In June, for example, Apple announced that its TV app will exclusively stream every live MLS match beginning in 2023, without any local blackouts or restrictions. MLS highlights, analysis, and other content will also be available across the TV app and Apple News.
"For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place," said Apple's services chief Eddy Cue. "It's a dream come true for MLS fans, soccer fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch."
At a media conference in New York this week, Cue said the lack of contractual restrictions will allow its partnership with the MLS to thrive. CNBC claims that Apple wants this sort of flexibility with the NFL too, such as the freedom to offer games globally.
Sunday Ticket currently offers all regional NFL games on Sunday afternoons to out-of-market viewers. The U.S.-only package has been exclusively distributed by DirecTV since 1994, but the deal is set to expire ahead of the 2023 NFL season and DirecTV is reportedly not interested in renewing its rights to the package.
Previous reports said the NFL was looking for more than $2 billion annually for Sunday Ticket streaming rights, along with a minority stake in NFL Media, which oversees the NFL Network channel, NFL.com, and more. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said a new Sunday Ticket partner would be announced before the end of this year.
Sunday Ticket would add to Apple's growing portfolio of live sports content available through the TV app. Apple already partnered with the MLB to air a weekly "Friday Night Baseball" doubleheader on Apple TV+ during the 2022 regular season, while its 10-year partnership with the MLS begins next year. It was also reported that Apple considered bidding on a package of UEFA Champions League games that ultimately went to CBS.