YouTube ready to bet big on American football rights in the US

Published 21 Dec 2022 at 17:51

In the US, American football fans looking to watch Sunday afternoon games may soon have to tune in… to YouTube. Google’s video platform is indeed in negotiations with the National Football League (NFL) to buy the broadcast rights to the famous “Sunday Ticket”, according to the American press. The transaction amount was not sent. But Google would be ready to pay up to 2.5 billion dollars a year, according to the “New York Times”.

Today, those rights are owned by DirecTV, a satellite television broadcaster, which bought them for $1.5 billion. Thanks to them, the group has attracted 1.5 million subscribers, each of whom pays between 300 and 400 dollars to follow the entire season.

But with the rights expiring, DirecTV is unlikely to put it back into the pool. Like the rest of the sector, the group was the victim of a wave of cancellations (cord cutting) in favor of the platforms. But “the Sunday ticket is ultra-premium: it is a very rare competition, with only 17 matches, and very popular because it takes place on Sundays, when Americans are in front of their screens” recalls Christophe Lepetit, responsible for economic studies at the Center for Sports Law and Economics (CDES).


YouTube’s interest in these rights confirms Gafa’s rise in high value-added content, particularly sports. “They are increasingly arriving in this field, and with funds that are disproportionate to traditional players” resumes Christophe Lepetit. Last year, Amazon spent $10 billion over ten years to land NFL Thursday Night games on its Prime Video service. Apple, in turn, bought the rights to Major League Soccer (European football) for 250 million per year for ten years.

In France, Amazon has also become the main broadcaster of French football after winning most of the rights to League 1. Ditto for Roland-Garros. In 2019, Amazon had won lot 2 for 3 seasons, until 2023. This year, the Djokovic-Nadal quarter-final was even almost exclusively reserved for Prime Video subscribers, which angered France Television and part of the public.

Subscriber Triggers

If Gafams is accelerating, it is because sports content – ​​long reserved for traditional TV channels – is attracting subscribers. But platforms like YouTube are increasingly trying to pivot towards a subscription model, so as not to rely solely on very ephemeral digital advertising, generated through the distribution of free content that is not always of very good quality. In the third quarter, YouTube’s ad revenue fell 2% due to inflation and the macroeconomic environment – a first.

To compensate, YouTube relies on YouTubeTV, a $65 per month, which gives access to several cable channels. The service already has 5 million subscribers. PrimeTime Channels, on the other hand, allows you to subscribe to 30 different streaming platforms while on YouTube.

But YouTube needs exclusive content to keep these products alive. With the Sunday ticket, the platform will be able to win back some of the subscribers of DirecTV and conquer new ones. The reservoir is large: the NFL’s YouTube account is followed by 10 million people.

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