AT&T expects DirecTV to retain NFL Sunday Ticket
AT&T is confident that DirecTV, the US satellite broadcaster owned by the US telecoms giant, will retain exclusive broadcast rights to American football’s NFL Sunday Ticket service, which offers live coverage of Sunday afternoon games outside of local markets, despite the league considering a new deal with a streaming partner.
DirecTV is presently paying $1.5 billion per year for the rights to the Sunday Ticket service, in a deal that runs until 2022. The service launched in 1994.
Last month, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, outlined the league’s plans to revamp the Sunday Ticket package to entice digital operators.
The NFL has the option to opt out of the Sunday Ticket contract with DirecTV after the 2019-20 season.
This prospect is thought to have become more likely as a result of recent tensions between AT&T and the NFL, especially after AT&T recently pulled the NFL Network from its DirecTV Now and U-verse TV platforms after failing to reach an agreement with the league to continue carrying the channel.
It was reported earlier this week that Amazon, the online retail giant, and Walt Disney, the US entertainment giant, have emerged as the favourites to replace DirecTV as the home of the NFL Sunday Ticket service.
However, Randall Stephenson, the AT&T chairman and chief executive, expects DirecTV to keep hold of the rights.
Stephenson said yesterday: “The exclusivity [of Sunday Ticket] should remain as we go forward on DirecTV. We’re heavily invested in the NFL on DirecTV.”
Addressing AT&T’s decision to cut the NFL Network from the DirecTV Now and U-verse TV platforms, Stephenson said: “When you look at the NFL Network, there are some costs attached to that.”
Stephenson stated that with many of the NFL games on the NFL Network also available on DirecTV: “The NFL Network didn’t really make sense to carry."
He was addressing the recent developments as AT&T released its financial figures for the first quarter showing that the company lost 544,000 net subscribers for DirecTV and U-verse TV.
At the end of the first quarter, DirecTV and U-verse subscribers stood at a combined 22.4 million, down 2 per cent quarter-on-quarter.
DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subscribers in the quarter, a decline of 5.2 per cent in the period, to 1.5 million.
The telecoms giant’s revenue for the first quarter of 2019 was $44.8 billion, an increase of 18 per cent from $38 billion in the same period last year. Despite the rise, the figure fell below the Wall Street estimate of $45.1 billion.
AT&T generated net income of $4.1 billion, down 12 per cent from $4.7 billion last year.
WarnerMedia, the new name for Time Warner following the US media company’s acquisition by AT&T, posted revenue of $8.38 billion, up 3.3 per cent year on year, but below analyst estimates of $8.45 billion.
AT&T acquired Time Warner in an $85.4-billion deal approved by regulators in June 2018, and the takeover was finally confirmed earlier this year.
HBO, which was merged with the mass-market Turner networks under the WarnerMedia umbrella as part of the acquisition of Time Warner, suffered a 7-per-cent drop in revenue in the first quarter to $1.5 billion.
Turner revenue was down 0.4 per cent to $3.4 billion in the first quarter.