Is Google Ready to Buy Its Way Into TV With an NFL Deal?

Published on August 20, 2013
by Peter Kafka

larry page football

Here’s a fun combination to ponder: The world’s most powerful media company and America’s most popular sport.

That could happen if Google buys the rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, the all-you-can-eat subscription-TV service currently owned by DirecTV.

As I’ve noted before, the DirecTV deal ends at the end of the 2014 NFL season, which would mean it would make sense for the league to start talking to potential bidders now.

And it is. Today, according to sources, Google CEO Larry Page, along with YouTube content boss Robert Kyncl, met with a delegation from the NFL led by commissioner Roger Goodell. And the Sunday Ticket package was among the topics of discussion, according to people familiar with the meeting.

A Google rep declined to comment, and I’m still waiting to hear back from an NFL rep.

An informal chat is a very long way from a deal, so there’s no need to invest too much in the conversation quite yet. And I’m told that Goodell and other NFL executives are meeting with multiple Silicon Valley companies on this trip, which is one they make annually.

That said, 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.

At the very least, it would be happy to have multiple bidders. Let’s see if the NFL gets them.

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