Will DIRECTV lose NFL Sunday Ticket in 2020?

As we roll into the last part of NFL season for this year, it’s natural to start thinking about next year. It seems like there are always rumors that NFL Sunday Ticket will move away from DIRECTV toward a streaming service. At least for now, those rumors aren’t true.

You’re good until 2022, bruh

The most recent contract between DIRECTV and the NFL, signed before AT&T took over, is good until 2022. It includes exclusive live TV and streaming rights for regular season Sunday NFL games, just as it always has. It’s possible that the NFL could look for a new partner in 2022, although I don’t know why they would leave AT&T.

In the current contract, AT&T can stream Sunday Ticket content to existing subscribers but can’t offer the service separately unless the customer can 100% prove that they can’t get satellite TV in their location. From what I understand this is a pretty big hill to climb and most people who have tried to get Sunday Ticket without DIRECTV have failed.

Of course we don’t know what the next contract will look like, but I just don’t imagine the NFL giving up on a partner who has delivered consistently for over 25 years. NFL Sunday Ticket and DIRECTV grew up together and both organizations have thrived.

Wasn’t there something about 2020 though?

Yes, you remember correctly. There was an option in the contract that would allow the NFL to opt out in 2019 if they wanted to. This would allow them to offer Sunday Ticket, either exclusively or non-exclusively, to another provider. However the contract window passed and the NFL didn’t do that. So, DIRECTV is officially your sole pay-TV source for NFL Sunday Ticket action for the next three seasons.

Will there ever be a standalone NFL Sunday Ticket package? Or a streaming-only NFL Sunday Ticket package?

Never say never. But, it’s ok to say “not yet.” While internet speeds and capacities keep getting better, we’re not yet at the point where streaming is a viable alternative to satellite. This is especially true with businesses. A sports bar that wants to show six or seven games at a time will probably not be able to stream that many reliably. Business internet still lags behind home internet in speed, although the slower speeds usually mean more reliability.

As much as we all enjoy NFL action at home, the big money comes from sports bars. Maybe in 2022 the parties involved might feel more comfortable with a streaming-only NFL package. If we look at things today, at least as far as sports bars, we’re not there yet.

AT&T absolutely could offer a streaming-only or standalone Sunday Ticket package but of course that would hurt its DIRECTV division. NFL Sunday Ticket isn’t just the most profitable package on DIRECTV, it’s rumored to be the most profitable package of any pay-TV service. Taking that away from DIRECTV would hurt the division and the suits at AT&T would have to feel confident that they could make just as much money or more by streaming or offering standalone some other way.

Since DIRECTV customers are some of the most profitable customers in the pay-TV universe, I’m not sure AT&T would want to make a big change there. I tend to think that NFL Sunday Ticket just isn’t going anywhere.

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 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.