UPDATE: Dec. 22, 2022: YouTube announced a multi-year agreement to bring NFL Sunday Ticket to YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels starting with the 2023 season. The Google-owned video platform will pay $2 billion annually for the U.S. streaming rights, CNBC reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. With the package’s jump from DirectTV, YouTube is promising new features and functionalities for viewers.
YouTube and the NFL are deepening their relationship in other ways to court more international fans: The NFL will increase content output through its official channel, while YouTube is introducing a new NFL International show and creator program for top global talent. YouTube creators will also receive exclusive access to certain tentpole NFL events. Additionally, YouTube is now the presenting sponsor of NFL Kickoff Weekend and Back Together Saturday, the official start of the league’s training camp.
- YouTube might become the new home of NFL Sunday Ticket, a subscription package that lets football fans watch any non-local Sunday games, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
- The Google-owned video platform is far along in discussions with the league and could secure the exclusive rights as early as today (Dec. 21), pending a decision from NFL team owners. Financial terms of the deal are unclear, but DirecTV, the current rights holder, spends about $1.5 billion per year for Sunday Ticket, the Journal said.
- If YouTube clinches the rights, the content would be available as an add-on to YouTube TV and a new feature called YouTube Primetime Channels beginning next season. Streaming platforms are ramping up their bids for live sports as they seek fresh ad revenue drivers and a hook for new users.
The NFL would continue a steady migration to the streaming arena if the YouTube deal for Sunday Ticket comes to fruition. This season was a landmark one for the professional football league, with “Thursday Night Football” jumping to Amazon Prime Video as part of a massive 11-year agreement with the e-commerce giant.
Many NFL games, including marquee events like the Super Bowl, still draw the lion’s share of their viewership from traditional broadcast TV. But the pandemic accelerated cord-cutting trends and saw a raft of new streaming platforms crop up, indicating consumer viewing habits are going digital for the long haul.
On top of Amazon’s ambitious “Thursday Night Football” maneuver, Apple and, reportedly, Netflix have chased more live sports rights from leagues both big and niche. Amazon and Apple also expressed interest in Sunday Ticket, according to the Journal, along with ESPN, which passed due to the high cost.
Securing Sunday Ticket could help fortify YouTube TV, a popular online cable bundle, and draw interest toward YouTube Primetime Channels, a hub that lets users subscribe to third-party streamers and manage their subscriptions in a central location. Primetime Channels launched in November.
The NFL remains the crown jewel of U.S. sports and a magnet for deep-pocketed advertisers. Amazon has successfully courted brands not endemic to its e-commerce marketplace to “Thursday Night Football” amid a bigger focus on its ad sales segment. Tracking ratings for the program has been an area of difficulty, a sign that the transition from linear to streaming will be bumpy in some respects.
Still, Sunday Ticket might help Google juice up YouTube following a weak year that’s brought a widely battered digital ad market. YouTube revenue actually declined for the first time last quarter, dipping 2% versus the year-ago period to $7.01 billion and weighing on its parent’s broader performance. The slide marked a stark contrast from earlier in the pandemic, when the video-sharing site frequently posted double-digit gains.