Is Google ready for some football?
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is in Silicon Valley this week and that’s all it took to get tongues wagging that the Internet search giant and parent of YouTube is eager to get a piece of the action.
The only NFL TV package that will be available anytime soon is satellite broadcaster DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package, which allows subscribers access to every NFL game on Sunday afternoons. It is ideal for a fan who roots for a team whose games are not routinely available or for obsessed fans who like to watch multiple games at the same time.
The Sunday Ticket contract, which costs DirecTV roughly $1 billion per season, is up after the 2014 season. While that seems like a long way off, the NFL likes to renegotiate TV deals a few years in advance.
If Google were to go after Sunday Ticket, it would likely be with the intention of streaming the games over the Internet, which is known in the industry as going over the top. Such a move would be intriguing to say the least and was a topic of conversation between the NFL and Google, according to All Things Digital.
Of DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers, about 2 million get Sunday Ticket at an average price of $250 per season. DirecTV also gets revenue from its Sunday Ticket mobile package that allows customers to watch games on their phones.
An over the top offering of Sunday Ticket could greatly increase the potential audience far beyond DirecTV and Google certainly has deep enough pockets to make the NFL think very seriously about such a bold offer.
But -- there is always a but -- there are other things to consider including how CBS and Fox would feel about a Google package.
The concern of CBS and Fox would primarily be that if enough people were watching football games online that were not available in their town, it could hurt the ratings for their local stations. Even though the ratings for a game watched on Sunday Ticket count toward CBS and Fox’s national rating, a Los Angeles resident watching a game in the Washington market doesn’t do their local stations any good.
This is why the NFL has resisted the urge to offer Sunday Ticket to cable operators such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast who would be very eager to get the package away from DirecTV. The risk is that it would ultimately harm CBS and Fox and make them less eager to spend so much on football.
The NFL declined to comment on Google and Sunday Ticket as did Google. A league spokesman said it often meets with “innovative leaders in Silicon Valley and around the world” and is “constantly looking for ways to make our game better on the field.”
While the NFL is staying quiet, just floating the idea of a rival bidder for Sunday Ticket may be enough to get DirecTV to shell out more cash to hold onto its package.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.