College Football Could Soon Come to Apple TV+

University of Tennessee football stadium. Credit: Steve DiMatteo / Unsplash
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Around this time last year, it looked like Apple TV+ was poised to be the inevitable new home for NFL Sunday Ticket. Sadly, contract negotiations for that ultimately fizzled toward the end of 2022, but now it looks like Apple may have another option for bringing football games to its streaming service.

While the NFL Sunday Ticket deal would have been a massive coup for Apple, the company has reportedly also been having discussions with the Pac-12 conference for at least three years about bringing college football games to the Apple TV.

It’s unclear what winding roads those conversations may have gone down over the years, but the New York Post has learned that Apple is now a front-line contender to become the streaming platform for the Pac-12.

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While this would be a considerably more modest arrangement than NFL Sunday Ticket, it’s also an easier opportunity for Apple to get what it’s looking for, which most analysts believe is an all-inclusive global deal with at least some exclusivity.

Last year, Apple was able to successfully broker deals with Major League Baseball (MLB) and Major League Soccer (MLS), but the NFL proved to be more of a challenge. While MLB had a pretty compelling reason to partner with Apple, it was only for a small subset of the overall franchise – a weekly double-header every Friday night — intended largely to give the North American league broader international appeal.

Compared to the relatively modest $85 million that Apple paid for MLB streaming rights, the MLS deal was considerably more ambitious, entering into a $2.5 billion ten-year agreement to become “the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match” until at least 2032. Subscribers pay $99 per season for an all-inclusive package that gives them access to every game— without any blackouts or other restrictions.

The NFL vs. College Football

While NFL Sunday Ticket would have likely cost Apple substantially more — analysts estimated it could run as high as $3 billion per year — the multi-trillion-dollar company’s pockets are more than deep enough to handle that. However, the devil turned out to be in the details, and Apple didn’t like the terms the NFL was setting regarding things like international rights and geographic blackouts.

The league also wasn’t willing to let Apple set its own subscription price out of fear of the Cupertino company lowballing other NFL packages with major networks like CBS and Fox. Ultimately, Apple decided it wasn’t worth spending a few billion a year unless it could get everything it wanted, and it walked away from the table in late December.

By contrast, the rumoured Pac-12 promises at least the potential for an exclusive all-in arrangement similar to what Apple signed with MLS, where the streaming service could offer a flat-rate season pass for unrestricted access to the entire conference.

While the deal would still have to be ratified by the colleges, sources have told the Post that Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is considering presenting Apple as an option to his schools soon, after other big players like ESPN, Amazon, and Fox Sports have shown little interest in the league.

It remains an open question whether those universities that form the Pac-12 conference would be interested in such a deal in the first place. Even if they were open to the idea, they’d still have to come to an agreement with Apple, which likely has some particular ideas in mind.

Apple can be very persnickety in contract negotiations, which was one of the reasons a much talked about agreement with the NFL for its Sunday Ticket package never happened. For the Pac-12, reaching a deal may not be easy, but it is a possible solution.Andrew Marchand, New York Post

Schools also have the option of leaving the Pac-12 to seek greener pastures in other conferences. The Post reports that the Big 12 has already signed with both ESPN and Fox, extending ESPN’s portfolio to include all of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) starting next year. The Big Ten conference has also agreed to “massive” contracts with Fox, CBS, and NBC.

Nevertheless, a Pac-12 deal could benefit everyone if it’s done right. Apple could produce more than just football and even take advantage of the existing production devices of the Pac-12 Network.

[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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