DIRECTV made news recently, intimating that they may be willing to drop their exclusive carriage of the NFL Sunday Ticket package. Rising costs associated with carrying sports content are the primary reason, as content distributors try to figure out how to keep subscribers happy and not break the bank in delivering live sports action. It may also be a negotiating ploy, as DIRECTV and the NFL are just beginning to discuss renewal of the Sunday Ticket contract which currently ends after the 2014 season.
So what options does the NFL have if DIRECTV won’t give them a raise over the $1 billion per season currently being paid for the rights to Sunday Ticket? Another exclusive carriage agreement would seem unlikely. DISH Network is the only other satellite option, and the only provider that has a national footprint. DISH has also been one of the most aggressive companies when it comes to battling with content providers. The company still does not offer the MLB Extra Innings package, or Time Warner SportsNet – home of Los Angeles Laker basketball. Both disputes involve disagreements over carriage fees.
The NFL also would strike an exclusive major cable company like Comcast or Time Warner. While both have huge subscriber numbers, neither would be able to reach all areas of the country. A more likely scenario would have the NFL offering the package to all providers, similar to the NBA League Pass and NHL Center Ice packages.
This would be the most consumer friendly option. For years, many who either do not want DIRECTV, or cannot subscribe to satellite service have lamented the fact that the Sunday Ticket is not available with any cable company. Many would jump at the chance to order the football package without having to install a satellite dish or agree to the two year contract required of new DIRECTV customers.
In addition, an online only option could open up to many who have broadband connections but no cable or satellite television service. This option though could potentially push more subscribers into “cord cutting” mode, something cable providers are fighting against in recent years.
The loss or sharing of Sunday Ticket could prove to be a risky play for DIRECTV though. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions stick with the satellite company simply because they hold exclusive rights to the package. Losing it could mean the loss of millions in revenue if customers switch to other cable television companies.