AT&T’s U-verse and DirecTV Now services have pulled the NFL Network and NFL Red Zone channels off the air as a deal with the NFL quietly expired, raising questions about whether the league will continue its exclusive long-running NFL Sunday Ticket offering with DirecTV.
The channels remain on DirecTV — that deal expires at the end of the current season — but subscribers to AT&T’s digital services were surprised to find a note informing them of the change Wednesday — a busy day for NFL news with the league’s 2019-2020 schedule released. The league’s draft is also later this month.
“Our rights to provide the NFL Network in your TV lineup have expired. We’re sorry for any inconvenience,” it read. “The NFL Network and RED ZONE CHANNEL remain available to all fans on DIRECTV. However, as we continue to manage content costs, we could not reach an agreement with the NFL to continue to carry their channels on U-verse TV and DIRECTV NOW.”
An NFL spokesman said later in the day that they had not heard from AT&T before the move, which comes as league commissioner Roger Goodell signaled in March that he was looking for a streaming partner for Sunday Ticket, the service which offers all out-of-market games that has been exclusively with DirecTV for a quarter-century.
“We’re having great discussions with DirecTV and AT&T,” Goodell told Bloomberg at the time. “We’ve had a 25-year partnership and we want to continue that partnership, but we also are looking to see how we can change the delivery.”
There is speculation a new deal for Sunday Ticket would include AT&T’s DirecTV plus a digital partner like Amazon, which already has pacted for Thursday night games. The NFL also has a streaming deal with AT&T rival Verizon for some games on its service.