Within the past few years we’ve seen à la carte options like NBA League Pass Broadband and MLB Extra Innings Broadband excel with games that would otherwise not be available to a person on TV because they are out of market. Will the NFL and its Sunday Game Day rights soon make the transition out of the hands of Directv and onto the internet courtesy of Apple or Google? I am here to say it is quite possible.
Directv pays $1 BILLION A YEAR for all out of market football games, calls it “Sunday Ticket”, and then willingly loses $375 million on it every year. It is projected that if the price of these rights rises above $1.5 billion, it will no longer be economically sound and beneficial for Directv to own these rights. Presently, Directv has Sunday Ticket because they believe it gives them a competitive advantage over rival cable companies and allows them to keep their subscribers despite their monthly bill slowly inching up. However, in the late 2010s (possibly 2016 or 2017 when the new 2014 deal is expired), what’s stopping Google from potentially buying up this football package from the NFL and transitioning this necessity for big fans to the wires of the web?? This option seems quite logical as fans could pay a one year fee (similar to NBA League Pass) and not be forced to pay the rising monthly bill TV providers like Directv require. I see potential for Google and Apple within the NFL, but not the NBA or MLB. This is because the NBA and MLB directly offer their out of market games to fans via the web. NBA and MLB do not go through a separate company. They are independent and sell it directly. If they came in, Google would be doing the same thing that is already going on – a one time fee for a bunch of games throughout the season. The NFL’s potential is unique to Google or Apple because the NFL exclusively uses Directv as its intermediary and there is room to snatch that partnership. With the number of cable subscribers going down, monthly bills going up, and the demand for an alternative option already beginning to be requested from NFL fans, Apple or Google could be the answer. I believe the NFL package through Google or Apple would generate more eyeballs because more people would be willing to pay $200 a year to get the games, rather than pay $100 a month to Directv just to have access to all the games.
If Google and Apple do, in fact, wish to test the waters of televising sports to the masses, content holders will see yet another spike in rights fees because more bidders are being added to the already bloody, red ocean. In the case of the NFL, I think a rise in rights fees is actually beneficial to the tech giants Google and Apple because it would potentially mean the price of Sunday Ticket exceeding $1.5 billion per year and effectively eliminating Directv out of the bidding.
In the near future, I do not foresee anything more for Google or Apple besides the out of market NFL package via the internet because of how many parties would have to be changed in order for a lasting Google or Apple takeover in sports to occur. TV networks and their corresponding exclusive contracts on playoffs, conferences, and times (like Sunday Night Football and TNT’s Thursday Night Basketball) would have to expire first. Also things like advertising and network and team sponsorships would have to be reconsidered. Plus, there is the argument on whether Baby Boomers and the older crowd of America would be up for a new entertainment method. Would people actually be willing to adapt to NFL on the internet? Despite this long term uncertainty, the near future can definitely include Google or Apple and their exceptional amount of cash on hand makes all of this speculation plausible.