Is Google feeling lucky? They just might just feel that way, as the generally conservative National Football League is taking the long view in regards to its broadcast rights, and Google is now in serious talks with the NFL to possibly carry the Sunday Ticket games for which DirecTV has had the exclusive rights since 2009. Prior to DirecTV’s exclusive deal, the NFL had tried to use its clout among football fans to gain leverage for its own network, forcing any carrier interested in the Sunday Ticket package to also carry the (then new) NFL Network.
DirecTV first gained non-exclusive rights to the Sunday Ticket games in 1994, and it’s always been a big selling point to potential subscribers of the satellite service. With the current exclusive contract up in 2014, Google is making its on field play with the NFL, as one of the clauses in the DirecTV contract insisted that a viable online version of Sunday Ticket be made available to those that do not have access to DirecTV’s service. DirecTV currently carries the NFL package for $224.99, offering 12-13 Sunday games during the regular NFL season.
Other NFL packages (such as the CBS’s AFC games, and others split between cable and network OTA) are not currently up for bid as the long-term contracts extend well beyond 2014. Google sees the opportunity to block and possibly intercept a competing deal from DirecTV who would have a hard time defending against Google’s massive $289.97 billion market value and approximately $50 billion in cash reserves, more than enough to sway things their way at the negotiating table.
DirecTV gained exclusivity to the tune of $4 billion in 2009, and there’s no telling what the NFL currently values the package at, except to speculate that Google would pay a far heftier sum and probably need to convince the NFL that they can retain fan interest… meaning that the NFL probably won’t consider YouTube as a viable broadcast option for the games, and that Google TV, which has never really taken hold of consumer interest, needs to grow up fast and get a better foothold in the marketplace.
Of course, that could very well be what Google wants out of the deal… some killer football content to add value to Google TV (it might also give a boost to Google Fiber, their broadband option soon to be coming to your town, or… not). Google may also need to consider charging their customers, long used to having content at their fingertips for free, for the games… and that might succeed as well as their new Google Paid Channels section of YouTube has, meaning not at all.
Since neither the NFL nor Google has given much in the way of comments regarding the deal (except non-answers typical of something going on), many media analysts are speculating that Google may simply gain streaming rights with DirecTV keeping the Sunday Ticket package in a less than exclusive deal. As things develop, stay tuned to HD Report for more Google Football.