For years, NFL fans had precious few options if they wanted to watch every NFL game on Sundays. Thanks to the league’s partnership with DirecTV, it was extremely difficult to get the NFL Sunday Ticket. However, in 2023, watching every NFL game on Sunday will finally be easier, as Google — as part of its subsidiaries YouTube and YouTube TV — now owns the rights to this valuable sports media package thanks to the NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube deal. Here is the history of the package, how the move to YouTube TV will work, and the early info on what will the NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube price be?
The DirecTV partnership
Prior to 1994, there was no way to watch every out-of-market NFL game on Sunday. That’s when Jon Taffer (yes, that Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue fame) stepped in and came up with the idea for NFL Sunday Ticket.
In partnership with DirecTV, the NFL offers fans every out-of-market NFL game every Sunday for one season-long price.
Over the years, the Sunday Ticket package has evolved slightly. The package has its own RedZone channel, hosted by Andrew Siciliano, as opposed to Scott Hanson. It can also be customized to show stats and info for your personal fantasy football team.
However, DirecTV — a satellite-based television company — hasn’t completely bought in on today’s streaming capabilities. Almost without exception, the only way to get this package was to put an unsightly grey disk on your roof or siding.
DirecTV did allow a small handful of people to stream the package. If you could prove you were a full-time student or live in an apartment that doesn’t allow satellite dishes, streaming was an option.
As streaming became more popular and satellite-based television became increasingly unnecessary, NFL fans started the countdown to the time the league would liberate the NFL Sunday Ticket from its longtime home.
And whether it was the writing on the wall, the faltering business model, or some other reason entirely, in the last few years, the innovation from DirecTV around the Sunday Ticket has stopped, and the reliability and customer services have seemingly become less of a priority for the company.
The NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube deal
The last Sunday Ticket contract went through 2022, which meant that media types and fans alike were keeping a close eye on the NFL throughout the season. On December 22, 2022, the NFL finally announced the fate of the coveted package in a press release.
“The National Football League today announced a multi-year agreement with Google granting YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels the right to exclusively distribute NFL Sunday Ticket to consumers in the United States starting with the 2023 NFL season,” the NFL PR team wrote. “This strategic partnership will provide fans greater access to NFL Sunday Ticket while tapping into the best of YouTube’s technology and product innovation.”
The NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube deal now allows any fan with internet access to purchase the Sunday Ticket package. It is a huge step for the league, as the Sunday Ticket-DirecTV relationship has been one of its biggest media missteps in recent years.
Tying itself to a satellite TV company, the NFL went from a pool of 25.4 million DirecTV subscribers in 2015 to approximately 13.3 million subscribers, Peter King reports in his NBC Sports column.
The NFL (as usual) will also make a ton of money from this YouTube TV deal. The reports are that Google will pay the league around $2 billion per season for the next seven seasons. This is a half-billion more per season than what DirecTV was paying for the last seven years.
There is an exception to the 2023 NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube deal. Bars and restaurants don’t immediately have to switch over to YouTube TV. In order to ease the transition from satellite to streaming for these businesses, DirecTV will keep supplying the content for an undisclosed period of time.
NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube price
The biggest question for most fans after the announcement of the Sunday Ticket move to YouTube TV is, what will the NFL Sunday Ticket-YouTube price be?
And there is the rub.
While nearly every NFL fan will now have the ability to purchase NFL Sunday Ticket, the possible price point may be out of reach (or undesirable) for many fans.
In what seems like a league/Google trial balloon, Peter King reports that “the price point has not been determined, but one TV person estimated it would be in the neighborhood of $300 for the season.”
That is a big number, even for the volume of games that the Sunday Ticket provides. However, it is around what DirectTV streaming customers are paying now for the package ($293.94 or six monthly payments of $48.99).
King also floated the idea of team-specific Sunday Tickets (just every Buffalo Bills game, for example) for around $75 a season for out-of-market fans.