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Report: NFL likely to stick with DirecTV through end of current deal

AT&T And DirecTV Agree To $48 Billion Merger

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: A DirecTV sattelite dish sits on a roof on May 19, 2014 in New York City. AT&T agreed May 18, to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

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The NFL apparently is keeping the $1.5 billion bird in the hand.

Daniel Kaplan of reports that the league currently is expected to stick with its current Sunday Ticket arrangement through DirecTV. With talks on a new deal between the NFL and AT&T (DirecTV’s parent company) “at a standstill,” the expectations is that two sides will continue under the terms of the existing deal through the 2020-21 season.

Kaplan’s report conflicts with other information that has surfaced in recent months. Sports Business Journal reported, for example, that the NFL has until the start of the 2019 regular season to opt out of the contract at the end of the 2019-20 season. SBJ also indicated that the NFL-DirecTV pact has three remaining years, not two.

Via Kaplan, the mutual option to terminate the deal prematurely expired “in recent months,” with NFL and AT&T continuing talks under a “gentleman’s agreement.”

Regardless of the conflicting details, the NFL is feeling good about where it currently is, thanks to the $1.5 billion per year that DirecTV pays for the Sunday Ticket service.

“The NFL is going to be in a good position,” an unnamed ownership source told Kaplan. “I mean, I don’t mean that to sound obnoxious. But I mean, they’re gonna pay us a lot of money, or there are others with different business models lined up to pay us different money for different versions of it. . . . I think the NFL will be fine. I think AT&T is paralyzed.”

AT&T may not want to pay $1.5 billion per year for Sunday Ticket, but it also surely doesn’t want to endure the mass exodus of DirecTV customers if/when DirecTV no longer is part of the package.

The balance for the NFL is money versus an expanded footprint among younger fans, especially via a streaming alternative for Sunday Ticket that could attract plenty of cord cutters and/or dish dumpers. For now, money is winning.

As it usually does.