The popular "NFL Sunday Ticket" out-of-market sports package will remain the
exclusive property of DirecTV Inc. as a result of a new five-year carriage
agreement between the direct-broadcast satellite service and the National
Football League, announced Wednesday.
While DirecTV will have exclusive DBS rights to the package through 2007,
cable operators will have another shot to secure distribution of the
up-to-14-game-per-week package in 2005, when the current $18.3 billion NFL TV
deal with broadcast networks ABC, Fox, CBS and ESPN expires.
Also included in the deal is the development of a new NFL Channel, which
initially will air league library product but could be an outlet for live games
in the future.
DirecTV will also develop high-definition game telecasts for the league, as
well as providing exclusive enhanced technical innovations, including
viewer-selected cameras and replays, and other advanced digital technology.
The deal is a major coup for DirecTV, which maintains a major competitive
advantage in sports programming over the cable industry.
"NFL Sunday Ticket has been a significant programming differentiator for
DirecTV, helping us to build a loyal subscriber base," DirecTV president and CEO
Eddie Hartenstein said.
"As we look ahead, we are excited to offer football fans nationwide
compelling new programming services -- including high-definition and enhanced
broadcasts -- that they can't get elsewhere," he added.
While the league negotiated with the cable industry over several months, NFL
commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the league remained concerned about the
potential oversaturation of its product if the package were available to
Sources said the NFL could not offer the package to cable unless it gained
approval from its TV partners.
"We don't want to move precipitously into multichannel-subscriber-supported
mediums at the expense of our ability to continue serving the broadest universe
of fans on broadcast television," Tagliabue said. "There has to be a
In Demand L.L.C. president Steve Brenner said the industry was "disappointed"
about the decision, adding that it didn't have the chance to engage in
"meaningful discussions" with the league.
He also said the industry was in a better position to protect the broadcast
networks' interests through local ad-insertion capabilities, making sure that
those viewing the out-of-market games would get the broadcast network's
"We're very disappointed about the NFL Sunday Ticket. It's very important
programming and far and away most widely distributed package. We'd be foolish
not to want it," Brenner said.
Former cable executive Steve Bornstein, who joined the NFL earlier this year
as a TV consultant, will remain with the league for the immediate future to work
on programming the new NFL Channel.