YouTube Scores NFL Sunday Ticket Rights Beginning Next Season

It had been in the works for months behind the scenes but NFL Sunday Ticket officially has a new home for the 2023-2024 season, and it's a streaming service. As announced by the NFL in a press release, YouTube has secured the rights to the white whale of sports deals, which had previously been with DirecTV for a number of years. Now, as the NFL looks to double down on streaming and move away from more traditional TV, YouTube has emerged the victor in something of a surprise. But what does it mean for football fans and, more importantly, those who simply enjoy watching TV? Let's get into it.

First off, Sunday Ticket, which allows viewers to watch all out-of-market games on Sundays, will be available through either YouTube TV or YouTube Primetime Channels. YouTube TV is a live TV subscription service similar to Sling or Fubo that currently begins at $64.99 per month. Primetime Channels is a way to subscribe to third-party services, such as Prime Video or Starz, through YouTube, much like one can do through Amazon, for example. No word yet on what the Sunday Ticket package will cost next season, but YouTube will pay around $2 billion per year for the rights, per CNBC. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had this to say about it:

"We're excited to bring NFL Sunday Ticket to YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels and usher in a new era of how fans across the United States access, watch, and follow the NFL. For a number of years we have been focused on increased digital distribution of our games and this strategic partnership is yet another example of us looking towards the future and building the next generation of NFL fans."

YouTube prevails over Apple, Disney, and Amazon

Other major players such as Apple, Amazon, and Disney (for ESPN) were in the running for the Sunday Ticket Rights, and Apple had largely been reported to be the favorite up until very recently. However, Apple is said to have wanted more flexibility with how to distribute the package, and it may have come down to pricing. But this now gives YouTube a major leg up, as this is a must-have for many NFL fans. That also meansĀ YouTube TV can easily expect to grow its subscriber base, which currently sits at 5 million.

The big question is what it will cost fans. DirecTV had a pricey package that was, historically, attached to a cable/satellite TV plan. In recent years, they've offered a streaming package, but it comes at a very steep $74.99 per month during the NFL regular season. One imagines YouTube TV will offer a much better value to subscribers. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, had this to add:

"YouTube has long been a home for football fans, whether they're streaming live games, keeping up with their home team, or watching the best plays in highlights. Through this expanded partnership with the NFL, viewers will now also be able to experience the game they love in compelling and innovative ways through YouTube TV or YouTube Primetime Channels. We're excited to continue our work with the NFL to make YouTube a great place for sports lovers everywhere."

Is this the beginning of the end for DirectTV?

The NFL has been trending away from more traditional TV and keeping an eye on its future for a while, with streaming becoming a bigger part of the equation. Amazon currently has the rights to stream Thursday Night Football, with ESPN+ airing alternate broadcasts of select Monday Night Football games. This YouTube deal cements streaming, in many ways, as the future. Rather crucially, this is a crippling blow to DirecTV, which had been relying on the Sunday Ticket package to attract customers for some time, having distributed the package exclusively since 1994. But in an age where more and more consumers are looking at cord cutting as a viable option, this is going to be tough for the company to overcome.

Without Sunday Ticket, DirecTV figures to lose a great deal of business next season. The industry has already been trending towards cord-cutting largely in favor of a streaming-focused future. In that way, it makes sense for the NFL to look forward, not back. But that could also spell the beginning of the end for DirecTV, even if it is a very slow, bitter end. Cable and satellite may not last forever as the future unfolds and, with sports becoming more of a streaming concern, traditional TV is losing one of its last major draws.

Meanwhile, Apple cut a huge deal with Major League Soccer recently, and has even been airing certain Major League Baseball games. Coupled with the offerings on ESPN+, which Disney offers through a bundle with Disney+ and Hulu, the writing appears to be on the wall. Sports could advance cord cutting greatly and this is the biggest of big deals to come about thus far.