NFL logo from the Associated Press.
(USA TODAY) - How fans watch their NFL games on Sundays could get very interesting in the next few years.
According to a report on the tech site All Things D, Google CEO Larry Page met with NFL executives, including commissioner Roger Goodell, on Tuesday, with the league's Sunday Ticket package among the conversation topics.
Via All Things D:
Google plus the NFL is an intriguing concept. Google could certainly afford the rights, which currently cost DirecTV $1 billion a year.
And while YouTube is the world's most popular video service, Google has been playing around the edges of TV without making a substantial dent. An NFL deal could certainly change that.
Meanwhile, the NFL seems willing to consider an "over the top" provider for the service, which it views as ancillary to the core TV packages it has sold to CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN.
The league's exclusive deal with DirecTV expires after next season and with the changing media landscape, pursuing multiple nonexclusive deals with both traditional and online content providers seems like a solution whose time has come. The league is locked into deals with NBC, FOX and CBS until 2022, so the broadcast rights to Sunday's games won't be changing for the forseeable future. But fans who have wanted the ability to see every game have been forced to go solely through the satellite provider since 1994.
"Members of our office meet often with innovative leaders in Silicon Valley and around the world. We are constantly looking for ways to make our game better on the field, in the stadium and for fans," NFL vice president of corporate communications Brian McCarthy told For The Win via email. "We are not commenting on any specifics of the meetings."
With the rise of Netflix, iTunes and Apple TV, consumers have had less incentive than ever to subscribe to cable or satellite television service for entertainment programming. The ability to watch live sports has been one of the biggest arguments to stay plugged into that traditional service, although both MLB and NBA season passes are currently available straight through Apple TV and Roku.
Neither of those sports draw the interest or ratings of the NFL. If even a small percentage of the people currently paying $300 a year for the Sunday Ticket suddenly have the option of doing the same thing on an a la carte basis through a site like YouTube, it will be a huge hit to the bottom line of whichever traditional cable/satellite provider ends up with those same rights, rights that could potentially cost over $1.5 billion to acquire.
While the meeting may just be an exploratory discussion, how the NFL handles the upcoming bidding process could shape how Americans consume their sports for years to come.