YouTube wins NFL Sunday Ticket as sports streaming battle heats up

Landmark $14bn deal signals how big tech is changing the market for live sports rights, as Google blitzes Apple and takes on Amazon to bring in a lucrative new audience and ad inventory options.

YouTube has secured the rights to broadcast some US National Football League matches from next season.

The ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ is a package that lets users watch all Sunday games from out-of-market teams for games that may not be broadcasted on local channels or affiliates. The Google-owned video streaming site will replace DirecTV, which has been home to the broadcasting package since 1994. 

The new package, which will run seven years beginning in 2023, will give YouTube the exclusive rights to the “Sunday Ticket” subscription service beginning next season. The service allows US fans to watch any game shown on the biggest game day of the week.

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and chairman of the NFL's Media Committee, said: "As the ways fans enjoy NFL football evolve in a changing media landscape, partnerships with innovators like YouTube will ensure that more games are available to more fans.”

Local ads monetised by YouTube 

“The local ad inventory is something that YouTube will monetize,” said Brent Lawton, NFL’s Head of Media Strategy and Business Development, in a media call on Thursday. “The national ads will be flowing through [YouTube] from what CBS and Fox are otherwise showing.”

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, YouTube will pay around $2bn a year to secure the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket franchise as part of its YouTube TV service.  NFL Sunday Ticket will be offered as an add-on for YouTube TV, which currently costs $64.99 per month. The exact price of the add-on remains unknown. 

As part of the agreement, YouTube and the NFL will offer exclusive access to official content and attendance opportunities for select YouTube Creators at key NFL tentpole events. 

YouTube is now also the presenting sponsor of both Back Together Saturday as well as NFL Kickoff Weekend TV shows. 

Apple fumbles deal 

Apple was initially seen as the top contender for securing the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket. But while YouTube will offer NFL Sunday Ticket as an add-on for YouTube, Apple reportedly wanted to offer NFL Sunday Ticket to Apple TV+ subscribers at no additional cost.

According to a new report this week by The Athletic, the agreement fell through due to concerns that Apple wouldn't be able to incorporate NFL Sunday Ticket into its future AR and VR platforms.

Sports licences – the next frontier in the AVOD market?

The NFL is the most popular live television content in all of sports and entertainment in the US.  Over the last five years, 49 of the top 50 and 92 of the top 100 most-watched programs on US television have been NFL games.

By winning this broadcasting package, YouTube could become one of the most dominant players in the highly prized sports streaming market and new ad inventory for performance marketers. 

It also gives Google a new channel to compete with Amazon, which has just commenced its 11-year deal to exclusively broadcast Thursday Night Football, and Apple, which is set to launch a streaming service with Major League Soccer.

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, said: "YouTube has long been a home for football fans, whether they're streaming live games, keeping up with their home team, or watching the best plays in highlights. 

“Through this expanded partnership with the NFL, viewers will now also be able to experience the game they love in compelling and innovative ways through YouTube TV or YouTube Primetime Channels."

The NFL also recently launched its own streaming platform, called the NFL Plus service. However, people can only use the service on a mobile phone or tablet and it has a limited selection of games. 

Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, added: "For a number of years we have been focused on increased digital distribution of our games and this partnership is yet another example of us looking towards the future and building the next generation of NFL fans."

Read more about the deal from the official NFL site here