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Future of Sunday Ticket remains very fluid

Mike Florio and Myles Simmons countdown their defining moments of the 2021 NFL season, from Rodgers' playoff loss to Aaron Donald's Super Bowl ending play.

The NFL’s deal with DirecTV to broadcast the Sunday Ticket package expires after the 2022 season. At this point, the only semi-certainty is that the long-time relationship with DirecTV will end. Where the product goes continues to be an open question.

It started as a satellite service. It will become, as of 2023, a full-blown streaming service. Which means that one of the obvious streaming companies with the infrastructure to do it right will end up getting the contract.

Recent reports have suggested that the winning bidder could pay as much as $7.5 billion per year, three times the current DirecTV rate. We’ve been unable to nail down that number. It’s quite possible that, in the end, the league will have to choose between maximizing revenue and maximizing audience reach.

It’s also unclear whether the package will continue to consist of one option -- buy it all, or buy none of it. There has been talk of a more flexible approach, with consumers able to buy packages tailored to a specific team or a specific weekend.

However it’s structured, it will be a streaming service, first and foremost. Although it seemed possible that the NFL would retain DirecTV as the satellite provider and sell the streaming rights to a tech company, it now appears (per a source with knowledge of the dynamics) that the league will sell the whole package to a tech company, which then may break off satellite rights to be sold only to consumers (typically, very rural) who lack access to the kind of Internet service needed for reliable streaming. That could be DirecTV, it could be Dish Network, it could be both, and it could be neither.

Regardless, Sunday Ticket will, as of 2023, fully enter the new reality of streaming-based TV consumption. And the NFL will make more and more money in the process.

Which is good, because the owners and the players share the revenue. So even if it allows the oligarchs to buy bigger superyachts, it also means more players will get more money for the risks they take and the sacrifices they make.