DirecTV Said to Be Near Renewal of Deal for ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’

DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite television service, is near an agreement to renew its exclusive deal with the National Football League for “NFL Sunday Ticket,” people with knowledge of the matter said.

The multiyear contract would let DirecTV, based in El Segundo, California, keep carrying the out-of-market Sunday-afternoon games it’s had for almost 20 years, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. While the new pact isn’t final, the outlines are set and it could be announced this month, one person said. A deal would extend the four-year, $4 billion contract that expires at the end of 2014.

With “Sunday Ticket,” DirecTV would retain key sports programming it can use to fend off competitors and Web-based entrants looking for exclusive content. While the company has offered the package since 1994 and is one of the few pay-TV players with national reach, the NFL has said it talked with a wide range of suitors.

The people didn’t provide the dollar value for the contract or say how long it would run. Darris Gringeri, a spokesman for DirecTV, declined to comment. No agreement is done, said Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the National Football League in New York.

DirecTV Chief Executive Officer Michael White said yesterday at an investor conference that he’s confident the company will continue to exclusively carry the NFL package of games.

“We’ve had very, very constructive conversations with the NFL, but it’s complex,” White said. “I’m very optimistic we will get an exclusive deal done on NFL Sunday Ticket.”

Reuters reported yesterday that the sides agreed on the framework for an agreement.

Attracting Fans

Last year, about 2 million DirecTV customers paid for “Sunday Ticket” out of its 20 million U.S. subscribers.

The company uses the package to attract and keep customers. The price starts at $49.99 a month, and DirecTV offers an upper tier for streaming, allowing users to watch games on tablets and phones for $59.99. New DirecTV customers who sign two-year contracts get a year of “Sunday Ticket” for free.

DirecTV shares were little changed at $67.02 yesterday in New York. The stock has gained 34 percent this year.

The renewal would come as DirecTV’s Latin America satellite-TV user growth has slowed and pay-TV competition intensifies with cable and phone companies. Netflix Inc. and Google Inc. are also attracting users.

Google, Sony Corp. and Intel Corp. are among tech companies working to deliver TV over the Internet, threatening the conventional pay-TV monthly subscription that involves a set-top box, offered by DirecTV and Time Warner Cable Inc. At the same time, networks are demanding higher fees for programming and looking for new ways to sell digital rights.

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