Apple and the NFL were unable to strike an agreement over Sunday Ticket, and the package will likely go to Google’s YouTube instead.
This week, news broke that Apple was no longer competing for NFL Sunday Ticket, one of the market’s hottest rights packages.
According to a recent story from The Athletic, there were three key areas of contention that caused the deal to fall through: the price, issues with rights for other platforms like VR, and a dispute over the terms of the pact.
To what do we owe the demise of the Apple NFL deal?
Apple, it seems, was offering league-low prices. As Daniel Kaplan notes, “Apple apparently intended to pay less than the NFL demanded so it could sell the programme at cheaper costs than incumbent DirecTV,” but the NFL’s contracts with Fox and CBS prevented that.
Another issue is that Apple’s competitors have been widely seen as have a more effective media campaign. Also, “Google’s media strategy is stronger than Apple’s,” since YouTube has 2.5 billion monthly users and YouTube TV is a rapidly expanding digital multi-channel platform.
An NFL insider claimed that other tech companies are “far more advanced in where they are with their business model for media, for broadcasting,” while Apple was “really behind.” This may have been prompted by Apple’s unsuccessful attempt to air live Major League Baseball games on Apple TV Plus earlier this year.
Apple also wanted “unknown rights” to broadcast games on other platforms, including the expected Apple VR headset, which was another area of contention. According to the article, “individuals acquainted with the NFL and Apple indicated” that Apple wants “what is labelled known and unknown rights.” That is to say, “Sunday Ticket VR isn’t a thing right now, but who knows?
According to a former Fox Sports executive, Apple and the NFL “never got on the same page” and throughout discussions, Apple “kept learning stuff” like “Well, we want to do a five-year contract.” No, a 10-year commitment is required. “We need global rights.” Not allowed to have any of them We need privacy at this time. ‘No.’”
The news is disappointing given the potential boost it would have given Apple TV Plus, which has a severe dearth of quality live sports programming. The NFL’s presence may have been a game-changer for subscriptions. Starting in February and continuing for the next decade, TV Plus users can watch every Major League Soccer game live and exclusively on Apple TV for as little as $12.99 a month.
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