Apple is involved in a lot of things but to date, it's not in the live sports business. However, that could change in a big way beginning in 2023. It's then that the iPhone maker's Apple TV app could become the new exclusive home to the NFL Sunday Ticket package in the United States. The NFL on Apple TV makes a lot of sense and there are reasons to believe it might have the inside track to getting the rights.
NFL Sunday Ticket: Where things stand
DIRECTV has been the exclusive home to NFL Sunday Ticket since its inception. The pricey service allows subscribers to watch every Sunday afternoon regular-season game on Fox and CBS, regardless of their location (minus some pesky blackouts). That deal expires at the end of the 2022 NFL season and it's not expected to get renewed.
In its current format, NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers can watch games through a DIRECTV console or via an app. The service is available to individuals for home use and to businesses such as bars and restaurants that can show the games to their patrons.
NFL on Apple TV: Why it could work
According to Front Office Sports, Apple isn't just going after NFL Sunday Ticket. It's also hoping to grab an equity stake in NFL Media and offer live-streaming of NFL games on mobile devices. The NFL is said to be shopping around all three assets.
In November, a Front Office Sports report said Amazon had the inside track to take a 49% stake in NFL Media, which includes NFL Network, NFL RedZone, and NFL.com. Whether Amazon remains in the lead position four months later isn't known.
Cupertino is taking an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to these three assets, which could be a significant sticking point. And yet, I'd argue being able to work with the world's largest company is reason enough for NFL to say OK to Apple's bundled approach. It would also align with the league's long-running propensity of always doing business with multiple media entities. If the NFL signed a multi-year deal with Apple, its portfolio would grow to include two global tech leaders, alongside Disney/ESPN, Paramount Global/CBS Sports, Comcast/NBC Sports, and Fox Corp./Fox Sports.
Currently, Fox and CBS broadcast most Sunday afternoon games from the NFC and AFC, respectively. Later in the day, NBC takes over with the highly-rated "NBC Sunday Night Football." Finally, the NFL week ends with ESPN's iconic "Monday Night Football." This fall, Amazon Prime begins a new week of coverage when it becomes the exclusive home to Thursday night NFL games.
The platform is there
When creating Apple TV/Apple TV+, Cupertino went out of its way to offer the service across multiple platforms. Besides being available through its properties such as AirPlay, the best iPhones, iPad, Mac, and the Apple TV console, Apple TV/Apple TV+ is offered on select Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony smart televisions. It's also provided on Roku, FireTV, Google TV, PlayStation, and Xbox. In other words, Apple has the capacity to support the NFL on Apple TV.
The NFL isn't the only live sport Apple is said to be going after. As noted by Front Office Sports, investment firm Wedbush believes Apple has begun an "aggressive hunt" for sports rights. Besides the NFL, it's looking to spend billions on the Big Ten, Pac 12, Big East, Big 12, NASCAR, and NBA/WNBA. Naturally, securing the rights to the NFL would dwarf all of the others, of course.
The NFL is expected to announce new media contracts in the coming months for the 2023 season and beyond. Until then, expect lots of rumors, which iMore will always cover.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.