The long-term status of DirecTV’s exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market football game package remained uncertain Friday, after both the satellite TV provider and the sports league missed opt-out deadlines for their current deal that runs through the 2020-21 season, according to a report by The Athletic Friday.

The parties have been at an impasse to extend the current 8-year, $12 billion deal that was struck in 2014. That agreement, the report said, gave each party an opt out before it expired but neither side acted within the specified time frame. In the meantime, the two parties continue to talk under a “gentleman’s agreement.”

The report, by The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, said negotiations have been at a “standstill” as both sides try to determine if a new deal is worthwhile.

AT&T, which purchased DirecTV for $67.1 billion four years ago, has recently appeared to be de-prioritizing it’s plans for the satellite TV business as the service bleeds satellite subscribers.

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The Athletic piece, citing an unnamed source familiar with the situation, said league ownership currently enjoys $1.5 billion per year under the existing deal, and has a number of suitors line up with different business models for the package.

For DirecTV, the NFL Sunday Ticket has been one of its most attractive sports packages, and AT&T is understandably uneasy doing anything to upset an almost 20-year exclusivity advantage with the nation’s No. 1 professional sport.

Meanwhile, DirecTV lost more than 1 million satellite TV customers in 2018, leading to speculation in the media that AT&T might be willing to sell the service, even to rival Dish Network. Dish previously entertained the notion of merging with DirecTV in 2002 but the proposal was ultimately blocked by federal regulators.

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In the meantime, Dish, like DirecTV, has had its own problems with satellite subscriber churn, possibly making another merger more palatable if it means saving either or both services.

In the meantime, NFL Sunday Ticket lovers must wait to see how they’ll get their games in a 2021.

By Greg Tarr

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