AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson expressed confidence that a renewal deal will be carved out with the National Football League to keep NFL Sunday Ticket on the DirecTV satellite TV platform when the current agreement expires after this upcoming season.
“We're not allowed to discuss much, but the exclusivity should remain as we go forward on DirecTV,” Stephenson told investment analysts during Wednesday’s AT&T first quarter earnings call.
Stephenson described DirecTV as “highly invested” in the NFL, a $294-a-season games package which he believes appeals to the satellite platform’s “high-end” customers. Given AT&T’s heavy losses of 544,000 customers on the linear TV side in the first quarter, it’s tough to imagine the company ditching popular exclusive franchises right now.
But with the NFL also reportedly shopping for a streaming window for NFL Sunday Ticket, Stephenson said nothing about the franchise coming to virtual pay TV platform DirecTV Now, or AT&T’s “thin-client” streaming replacement service for the full DirecTV satellite bundle, set to launch later this year.
Stephenson did, however, address the issue of the NFL Network recently being pulled from AT&T U-verse TV and DirecTV Now.
“When you look at the NFL Network, there's some costs attached to that,” he said. “Our customers can watch the NFL Draft on ABC, and they can watch the Thursday night games on Fox. It just didn’t really make sense to continue carrying it over there. So it will save some content cost and we will give our customers access to the NFL through other mediums. If they really are a NFL centric customer, we will move them to DirecTV.