Will DIRECTV lose Sunday Ticket?

There are a few blogs out there that love to trash DIRECTV. I won’t link to them here, I won’t give them the satisfaction. But I’m thinking of one blogger in particular who seems to have had a 15 year hatred of DIRECTV and never misses an opportunity to trash the service. When they’re not outright blaming DIRECTV for everything for solar flares to crop yields, they’re subtly trying to sow dissatisfaction with clickbaity articles about how DIRECTV is failing or will fail.

Sadly, and predictably, you’re starting to see articles about how the 2022 season is the last one for AT&T’s current contract with the NFL. And this of course leads to speculation about what would happen if the two companies parted ways. Would DIRECTV fail? Would the NFL ever get as much money as it gets from AT&T?

Here’s the real story, along with as much fact-based speculation as I can give you.

First of all anyone who tells you they know anything… is wrong.

Any blogger who tells you that they know what’s going to happen is lying. Why? Because anyone involved with the actual deal between AT&T and the NFL isn’t going to talk. I’m sure all those folks have signed ironclad NDAs and they could be sued into the stone age for saying anything.

The rest of us can speculate, but all we’re doing is reading the room, guessing what could come next. So take my guesses with the same grain of salt as anyone else.

What I think will happen

I think AT&T will negotiate a new deal with the NFL. There are these persistent rumors that AT&T is trying to divest itself of DIRECTV. Why would they cause the price to drop by ending the NFL partnership? If you’re trying to sell, you want to bake in as much value as possible. A new deal with the NFL only costs AT&T money if they keep DIRECTV. Otherwise, the costs are borne by someone else.

Other possibilities

There are some other ways this could play out. Let’s take a look one by one.

Possibility #1: AT&T keeps Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV but negotiates streaming rights as well.

This is a very likely possibility if you are of the opinion that AT&T will sell its DIRECTV unit. By negotiating streaming rights, they potentially have the ability to keep Sunday Ticket even as they offload DIRECTV. They’d have to be careful though. If the streaming rights for Sunday Ticket are seen as diminishing DIRECTV’s value, they won’t get top dollar when they sell.

Possibility #2: AT&T gets exclusive streaming rights for commercial customers but non-exclusive rights for residential customers.

This one’s a little complex. In this scenario the NFL gets to offer the Sunday Ticket package to other cable and streaming provider, but only for residential use. Businesses would still need to use DIRECTV to get Sunday Ticket. This would leave DIRECTV with the lucrative bar and restaurant market while giving the NFL other options similar to what other sports leagues have.

In many ways this would be a win-win. Sunday Ticket is a lot more expensive for bars and restaurants, because the price is based on fire code occupancy instead of being one fixed price. Of course there would have to be some enforcement, such as not letting any streaming happen if the location is a bar or restaurant. The technology for this isn’t that difficult.

This option makes sense if a potential buyer for DIRECTV is interested in beefing up the service’s already-impressive commercial offerings.

Possibility #3: Sunday Ticket goes completely open

In this possibility, the NFL opens up Sunday Ticket to any pay-TV or streaming company who wants to offer it. Potentially the NFL itself could offer a streaming package direct to consumers the same way MLB does.

There are going to be people who tell you that this would kill DIRECTV. I really doubt that. Sunday Ticket is the most profitable package for AT&T but it’s not the only one. And, I’d bet there are still millions and millions of people who have DIRECTV and don’t subscribe to Sunday Ticket.

Long term I don’t think this would be the best move for AT&T or any other potential owner of DIRECTV but it wouldn’t be the end for anyone.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below. Let’s get the conversation started!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.