An ‘NFL Plus’ Bundle Could Be Coming to Apple TV+ With Sunday Ticket

While most of the attention has been on Apple’s landmark MLB deal, talks with the NFL have quietly gone on.
NFL Plus on Apple TV Credit: Lutsenko_Oleksandr / Shutterstock
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Apple has been vying to get its hands on NFL streaming rights since before Apple TV+ was even a thing, and it looks like its persistence may be close to finally paying off.

Initially, the iPhone maker set its sights on NFL Thursday Night Football in 2016, but that package ultimately landed at Amazon, which is understandable when you consider Apple didn’t even have solid plans for a streaming service in those days.

Amazon was able to parlay its initial win into an eleven-year deal for NFL Thursday Night Football worth over $10 billion, effectively shutting everyone else out entirely.

Undeterred, Apple turned its attention to NFL Sunday Ticket, a package that’s been held by DirecTV for the past few years. The satellite provider has reportedly been looking to ditch the deal once it runs out since its new parent company AT&T considers it little more than a $1.5 billion albatross.

While most of the attention this year has been on Apple’s landmark MLB deal for Friday Night Baseball, it seems that talks with the NFL have quietly continued in the background. An insider report last month suggested that the package was “Apple’s to lose,” with some sources hinting that the deal is already done and Apple is merely waiting for the right time to announce it.

A More Extensive Package

Now, Sports Business Journal is hinting that there could be even more to the Apple-NFL deal than merely Sunday Ticket.

Rumors have been circulating for a while that NFL has plans to launch its own paid streaming service, NFL Plus, and SBJ has confirmed that with reports from the NFL owners’ meetings in Atlanta.

NFL Plus is expected to arrive in July, likely priced at around $5/month. This will primarily offer access to live games on mobile phones and tablets. Like Apple’s Friday Night Baseball, there will no doubt be other supplemental material included, such as podcasts, commentaries, and team-created content.

What’s interesting is that the same sources have indicated that the NFL is considering bundling NFL Plus into an Apple TV+ package.

NFL Plus comes to the front as talks continue over possibly selling an equity stake in NFL Media properties, with Apple and Amazon the front runners. If one of those deals comes to fruition, NFL Plus could be folded into that package. Along with that flexibility, going it alone on this streaming product will give the NFL new data on its users, sources said.Sports Business Journal

Although SBJ lists both Apple and Amazon, Apple is likely the true front-runner. In addition to the report we heard last month, the NFL is known for trying to diversify its content delivery as much as possible. Amazon already has the big Thursday Night Football deal, so the NFL would be reluctant to put another egg into that basket.

It’s not entirely clear what this means, particularly since the NFL appears to want to use NFL Plus for collecting data on its viewers in a way that it hasn’t previously been able to. Apple would be sure to balk at this idea, and it’s unlikely the NFL would get anything for subscribers who come to the service through Apple TV+.

On the other hand, NFL Plus could remain as a standalone service, driven through the NFL’s own app that integrates with Apple’s TV app in the same way as numerous other streaming apps.

Unlike Friday Night Baseball, which reportedly only costs, NFL Sunday Ticket isn’t going to come cheap. DirecTV was already paying $1.5 billion a year for the rights, and one of the reasons it’s bowing out is that the NFL is asking for even more this time around — somewhere around $2.5 billion per year.

This makes it unlikely that Apple will be quite as generous with NFL games. It will have to recoup that investment somehow, so it’s likely to want to charge a higher tier for NFL Sunday Ticket even by itself on top of the standard Apple TV+ subscription. Adding NFL Plus to that would certainly sweeten the deal for fans, who could get access to both out-of-market games on Sunday Ticket and local live games all in one place.

Either way, with the 2022 NFL season nearly upon us, and plans for NFL Plus to arrive in July, we probably won’t have to wait too much longer to find out how Apple TV+ will fit into things.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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