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AT&T CEO Expects DirecTV to Keep NFL Sunday Ticket Exclusively

AT&T believes it will hang on to DirecTV’s exclusive rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket, even as the league has said it’s considering ending the satellite operator’s exclusivity to extend the out-of-home games package to streaming platforms.

“The exclusivity [of Sunday Ticket] should remain as we go forward on DirecTV,” AT&T CEO and chairman Randall Stephenson said on the company’s Q1 earnings call Wednesday. “We’re heavily invested in the NFL on DirecTV.”

Sunday Ticket first launched 25 years ago on DirecTV, and it’s the only place to (legally) watch all of the NFL’s regular-season Sunday daytime match-ups. The price for DirecTV subscribers for the regular NFL Sunday Ticket package for the 2018 season was $293.94.

AT&T’s Stephenson also addressed the issue of the telco dropping NFL Network from DirecTV Now and U-verse TV earlier this month, after carriage deals for the network on those services expired April 15.

“When you look at the NFL Network, there are some costs attached to that,” Stephenson said. He added that many of the games on NFL Network as well as its coverage of the NFL draft are available on other network, so “the NFL Network didn’t really make sense to carry” on U-verse and DirecTV Now — neither of which is permitted under the NFL pact to offer Sunday Ticket. The NFL Network remains on DirecTV’s satellite service.

DirecTV’s current deal for Sunday Ticket extends through the 2019 NFL season. The talks on the football package come as AT&T in the first quarter of 2019 lost a whopping 544,000 net subscribers for DirecTV and U-verse TV, to stand at 22.4 million at quarter’s end (down 2.4% quarter-over-quarter). It also dropped a net 83,000 subs from DirecTV Now, which declined 5.2% in the period to 1.5 million.

Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a Bloomberg interview that the league wanted to expand the distribution of Sunday Ticket to online platforms in addition to DirecTV. “We’re looking to make sure that we continue to deliver this package, which is a premium package of great content,” he said. “We want it delivered on several different platforms.”

AT&T also has offered a streaming-only version of NFL Sunday Ticket, but only to non-DirecTV customers who are college students or live somewhere in the U.S. where DirecTV satellite service is not available (like apartments and other multidwelling-unit buildings).

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