The NFL and DirecTV have reached a "broad agreement" over the NFL Sunday Ticket package, giving the cable provider control of the sports package into the next decade, according to the Sports Business Journal. Terms are still being worked out, but the new deal is expected to sync up roughly with the NFL's current television contracts. The league's current deal with ESPN runs through 2021. Contracts with CBS, NBC and Fox run through 2022.
For the right to broadcast out-of-market games to paying customers, DirecTV will pay an annual rights fee starting at $1.3 billion and increasing to $1.4 billion over the next decade.
DirecTV has been the NFL Sunday Ticket's only distributor for the last 20 years. It's current contract for the package, carrying a $1 billion annual fee, will expire after the 2014 season, completing a four-year deal.
The NFL and DirecTV have been in talks about a contract extension for some time. The Sports Business Journal notes that a formal announcement isn't imminent with issues like control over digital rights still being discussed, but those details are relatively minor compared to the overall scope of the deal.
The NFL had several suitors for the Sunday Ticket, though reportedly none as serious as DirecTV. Though the package is still a prized commodity -- currently with two million customers paying from $239.94 to $329.94 -- cable operators have said that presence of the frenetic NFL RedZone channel on sports packages makes the Sunday Ticket less desirable.
Google was reportedly interested in acquiring the NFL Sunday Ticket at one point, though it's unclear if the Internet giant entered serious discussions with the league.
DirecTV was acquired by AT&T this past spring, but language in the deal indicated that AT&T could back out if DirecTV was unable to renew its contract for the Sunday Ticket package. The result may have been an even bigger windfall for the NFL, with DirecTV motivated to do everything it could to make sure the merger didn't fall through.