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The NFL's Flirtation With the Web Is Over (For Now)

For now, at least: DirecTV locks up pro football's "Sunday Ticket" package for eight years.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

One day, a tech giant like Google or Apple might stream pro football games to American homes. But not anytime soon: DirecTV has renewed its deal to carry the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” subscription package.

The two sides aren’t commenting on pricing, but the satellite TV company’s last NFL deal cost it about $1 billion a year.

The renewal means that the most plausible way for a non-TV company to get its hands on TV’s most valuable programming is now off the table; people familiar with the deal say it will extend for eight years. Meanwhile, the rest of the NFL’s games are also locked up in long-term deals.

So if you want to watch pro football, you’re going do it via a broadcast or cable TV network, for quite some time.*

This deal isn’t much of a surprise, since AT&T’s $67 billion plan to purchase DirecTV hinged in large part on the satellite company keeping the deal. Then again, the deal was supposed to be wrapped up late last year, and the delay prompted some observers/wishers to wonder if Google, Apple or someone else might be bidding on the package.

That hope isn’t entirely fanciful, as the NFL itself has suggested that some of its games will come to the Web without stopping on TV. And last year, managers at Google’s YouTube unit liked the idea enough to pitch it to CEO Larry Page, who didn’t bite.

* Many of those networks have deals that allow viewers to stream the games on laptops or tablets — but those deals are still built around the notion that the best way to watch the games is on TV.

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