US: The NFL threatens to sack AT&T’s DirecTV acquisition

While opposition to AT&T’s recently announced plans to acquire cable giant DirecTV in a $48.5 billion deal has already surfaced, few members of the opposition are likely to succeed in blocking the merger. But according to reports, there is one entity that threatens to prevent the deal from happening: the National Football League.

Reports say a statement in the regulatory filing submitted by DirecTV regarding the acquisition plans suggests the NFL could make or break the deal. “In the unlikely event that [DirecTV]’s agreement for the ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ service is not renewed on substantially the terms discussed between the parties, AT&T may elect not to consummate the merger,” the filing says.

DirecTV currently holds the rights to broadcast the wildly popular regular NFL season and show every out-of-market regular-season game. This programming is known as the NFL Sunday Ticket, and DirecTV is also in the midst of negotiating a renewal of those broadcasting rights.

And the programming isn’t cheap. According to reports, DirecTV paid $25 million for the programming in 1994; in 2011, however, that price tag jumped to $1 billion.

IN a conference call with DirecTV CEO Mike White and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, reports say the point was introduced that the merger gives the NFL significant bargaining power.

But according to White, the companies have already pitched their merger proposal to NFL commissioner Roger Goodwell. Reports say the company executives even hinted at possible new methods of content delivery from the NFL, such as live online game viewing.

But according to some industry experts, the NFL Sunday Ticket programming has the power to affect the mega-merger, and offers even more incentive for DirecTV rivals, such as Dish Network, to acquire the programming rights.

Full content: Hollywood Reporter

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