DirecTV floats possibility of sharing NFL Sunday Ticket rights with cable operators

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DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) CFO Patrick Doyle said Wednesday that the company may not renew its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket franchise when its contract with the league expires next year.

Doyle, speaking at a Deutsche Bank conference in Florida, floated the idea of DirecTV possibly sharing rights to the package with cable operators and other pay TV rivals. While DirecTV has used its exclusive rights to the package to grow its subscriber base, the company has found it challenging to turn a profit on the deal, which costs it about $1 billion annually.

"There's a point where we're certainly willing to renew and at some [license fee] increase that's reasonable, that we can absorb and continue to pass on to the customer. I think, obviously, if it goes above that, we would certainly either think about not carrying it or go nonexclusive," Doyle said. "We're not necessarily concerned about going to nonexclusive, if it's structured properly," he added.

Cable operators have long complained about the NFL's exclusive pact with DirecTV, which first launched the package in 1994. The out-of-market subscription package allows subscribers to access every NFL game broadcast by CBS and Fox.

CBS and Fox have resisted the idea of opening up distribution of Sunday Ticket to cable operators out of concern that increased usage of the service would erode ratings for their local TV stations and affiliates.

DirecTV slashed the subscription fee for Sunday Ticket by more than $100 last year, charging subscribers $199 for a standard-definition version and $299.95 for a "NFL Sunday Ticket Max" version of the product that includes high-definition games and the NFL Red Zone Channel. Cable operators are also able to carry Red Zone Channel, which offers live cut-ins to games when teams are about to score a touchdown.

For more:
- see transcript from Doyle's appearance at DB conference

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