The past two decades have seen Apple transform itself from a maker of expensive computers to a hardware, software, and entertainment Goliath. Live sports may be next on the agenda—according to a report in Front Office Sports, Apple is eying a multibillion-dollar bid for the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket package.
Sunday Ticket, which broadcasts out-of-market NFL games, has been carried by Directv since its launch in 1994. The rights to Sunday Ticket expire after the 2022 season, and with Directv hemorrhaging both subscribers and money, Sunday Ticket is going to have a new home for the 2023 season.
In addition to selling the rights to Sunday Ticket, the NFL is also seeking an investment partner for NFL Media, which includes the league’s website, NFL Network, and NFL RedZone. Apple would also become a minority shareholder in NFL Media, in addition to getting the streaming rights to out-of-market NFL games.
Last year, the NFL locked up its current broadcast partners into new contracts totaling $9 billion annually. Amazon also secured rights to the Thursday night slate of games for another $1 billion per year.
Apple will need to pay dearly to get in on some NFL action. Not only does the expiring Sunday Ticket agreement cost Directv $1.5 billion annually, but some of the league’s broadcast rightsholders saw their costs almost double under the new contracts, which run through the 2033 season. Add a 49 percent stake in NFL Media to the equation, and Apple would surely be paying north of $3 billion per year for a business partnership with the most popular professional sports league in the United States.
That’s chump change for a company with over $200 billion of cash and securities on hand.
While Apple has also been in negotiations with Major League Baseball to stream weekday regular-season games, a deal with either the NFL or MLB would mark its first foray into live sports. With the likes of Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime constantly churning out new scripted programming, streaming live sports would give Apple another way to differentiate itself from the competition, resulting more subscribers… and more money.