Talks between the National Football League and Apple over a package of Sunday football games have dragged as the league and the tech giant have wrangled over pricing, but another deal has been added to the mix: sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show. The N.F.L. has been seeking as much as $2.5 billion for rights to N.F.L. Sunday Ticket, about $1 billion more than what it collects from its current provider, DirecTV. As the sides squabble over a rights fee that high, Apple has agreed to be the main sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show, the league and the company said late Thursday. They did not disclose terms of the deal. Apple Music will replace Pepsi as sponsor in a deal that the N.F.L. had been shopping around for about $50 million, said three people familiar with the negotiations.
Becoming the primary sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show is a departure for Apple. The company has prided itself on marketing its brand differently than consumer goods companies such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonald’s, which have long histories of sponsoring sports and cultural events. Apple seldom sponsors events that it does not control. It has not lent its brand to a high-profile event since 2016, when it sponsored the Met Gala in a bid to increase acceptance of its Apple Watch within the world of fashion.
The stalemate on the much larger deal between Apple and the N.F.L. is hampering the league’s efforts to become a leader in the streaming of live sports. With consumers abandoning traditional television packages, Roger Goodell, the N.F.L.’s commissioner, has put a priority on expanding the league’s reach beyond traditional broadcasters to digital media such as Netflix and HBO Max, where younger viewers are turning their attention. Last year, the league cut a string of traditional broadcast agreements with CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC for its highest-profile games, but it reserved two packages for tech companies that it considered to be the sports programmers of tomorrow. It struck an 11-year, $13 billion deal with Amazon to stream Thursday night games, and it announced that it would sell its Sunday Ticket to a streaming service.
Though the N.F.L. has discussed Sunday Ticket with Google, Amazon and ESPN, its most extensive negotiations have been with Apple. Executives at both the league and the tech giant have told business partners that they expect to get a deal done, according to the people familiar with the negotiations. But the talks have been complicated by the N.F.L.’s decision to sell several assets simultaneously, including Sunday Ticket, the halftime show and N.F.L. Media properties such as N.F.L. Network and the RedZone channel.
The World’s Most Prestigious Art Exhibition Is Over. Maybe Forever.Inside Seoul’s Wild Animal Cafes Continue reading the main story One of the biggest problems has been the N.F.L.’s asking price of $2.5 billion. The $1 billion increase from the current deal would be difficult to win from a traditional media company but has been especially tough to capture from Apple, which has deep pockets and an interest in branching into sports but also an unyielding commitment to profitability that leads it to squeeze suppliers.