For 25 years, the only way for the average NFL fan to see out-of-market games live—and legally, and in the comfort of their own home—was to slap a satellite dish on the top of their house and subscribe the Sunday Ticket through DirecTV. That could be changing soon.
DirecTV’s contract with the NFL expires following the 2019 season, and there figure to be some prominent bidders to jump into their spot, or at least to share it. Apparently, one potential future suitor could be Disney, which holds an 80 percent share of ESPN, in case you didn’t know.
Awful Announcing points out that even DirectTV has given indications that their relationship with the NFL may not extend beyond the 2019 season, which has included modifications to language in their contracts “to reflect that they may not be able to offer the package after 2019”. I don’t have the statistics, but I’m guessing NFL fans who want out-of-market games make up a pretty decent share of DirecTV’s total subscriber base.
Still, it’s also a distinct possibility that the NFL and DirecTV will continue to work together, with the company owning the satellite rights, but the rights for other avenues, such as streaming, being sold off to another buyer, such as ESPN’s parent company, or Amazon, which already has a multiple-year working relationship with the NFL for streaming Thursday Night games.
The same article also mentioned that Disney CEO Bob Iger recently admitted that the organization has done “some exploration” on the potential for acquiring the streaming rights for Sunday Ticket. He added, “we are very bullish on the NFL”. After all, they ought to be. The NFL is the largest sport of a platform of which they own 80 percent, so they should be very invested in the league’s success.
Moving away from DirecTV, or especially expanding to multiple partners, would substantially open up the NFL’s market for live access to non-regional games, which seems like something they would have wanted to pursue, frankly, many years ago. In that regard, they have been behind pretty much every other major American sports league.
Given that the Pittsburgh Steelers have among the most widespread fanbases in the NFL, I would imagine that there are more than a few readers here who would be very interested to know that they might, as early as the 2020 season, have the opportunity to purchase a product that would allow them to watch all of the team’s games, live, from home, without the need to subscribe to DirecTV.