Simultaneous with the release of substantial streaming subscriber growth numbers this week, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that his company’s direct-to-consumer services business is bidding for the popular NFL Sunday Ticket package, according to a CNBC report.

The premium add-on sports package that provides access to out-of-market NFL football games since 1994 has been a near exclusive offering of the DirecTV direct-to-home satellite TV service over most of that time.

But the likelihood the contract will be renewed began to look less secure following a decision last year by the satellite TV service’s owner AT&T to spinoff the DirecTV operation. This has led some analysts to speculate that service might not be as interested in renewing the popular sports package contract after it expires at the end of the 2022 season.

According to CNBC, bidding for the new Sunday Ticket rights could generate as much as $2.5 billion per year for the NFL, up from $1.5 billion under the current contract. Disney and DirecTV likely will be up against strong competition for the rights from Amazon, Apple, Discovery and Warner.

Speculators said DirecTV could still be a player for the Sunday Ticket rights but the new spinoff company’s interest could be waning in the eyes of new private-equity minority investors since the NFL Sunday Ticket was a loss-leader during the current contract.

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Disney became a stronger contender for the football package after reporting big subscriber growth results from its sports services in its Q4-2021 financial. Total subscribers to the premium ESPN+ streaming service surpassed 21.3 million, up 24.6% year over year for Disney in the period.

The Disney+ service accounted for 129.8 million total streaming subscribers, up 11.7 million (37%), in the period. Subscribers to Hulu, both the streaming service and the live TV offering, grew 15% from the year-ago period to 45.3 million.

Direct-to-consumer services generated $4.7 billion for Disney in Q4.

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By Greg Tarr

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