Apple— long assumed to be the front-runner for distribution rights to NFL Sunday Ticket — reportedly has backed out of the bidding process, leaving Amazon and YouTube to battle it out.
Apple’s decision had less to do with the NFL’s massive $3.5-billion asking price than with ultimately deciding that it doesn’t “see the logic” based on the limitations tied to the deal, sources told Puck News’s Dylan Byers, whose report was later confirmed by The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan.
Restrictions are said to include a lack of international rights, geographic blackouts and an enforced minimum subscription price designed to ensure that the NFL’s broadcast rights agreements with Fox and CBS are not impacted.
Apple wanted to bundle Sunday Ticket with its $6.99-per-month Apple TV+ subscription at no additional cost, according to a Sportico report.
Apple has more flexible deals with other sports franchises, including its 10-year agreement with Major League Soccer, in which every MLS game will stream on Apple TV+, across more than 100 countries. Apple paid about $250 million per year for those rights, which also came with marketing collaboration.
Apple is also set to launch a $99 MLS season pass in February, with Apple TV+ subscribers getting a $2 discount off the regular price of $14.99 per month.
Although earlier reports had Disney’s ESPN also competing for the Sunday Ticket rights, Byers says that Disney and other legacy media companies can’t justify the expense.
But the rights could help Amazon, which recently began streaming Thursday Night Football, in its quest to pump up Prime Video as part of its ongoing Prime membership push. And Google’s YouTube is already carrying several sports networks in its efforts to build its YouTube TV business.
DirecTV has had the Sunday Ticket rights since its launch in 1994.
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that negotiations for the package are at a “very critical point,” and suggested that getting the right deal is more important than rushing the deal’s timing—opening the possibility that the talks could drag on into 2023.