The NFL is coming up on the end of its deal granting DirecTV exclusive rights to air out-of-market NFL games live every Sunday.  After nearly a decade of partnership, the league might not only part ways with the satellite TV provider, it could look beyond TV to the internet.

All Things D cites sources who said the rights to DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package were on the table at a meeting between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Google head Larry Page.  DirecTV paid $4 billion back in 2009 to get exclusive rights to the package for the 2010-2014 seasons. At the time, none of the major US networks or cable providers stepped up to the country’s top satellite provider to take on the extensive line of programming.

The NFL rules the roost among U.S. sports.  In fact, it’s in the top pecking order for the most popular forms of entertainment in the U.S. in both audience size and dollars generated.  It owns the nation’s most watched TV program in the Super Bowl, and it consistently bests weekly Nielsen ratings with its primetime games.

Network-aired primetime and local games don’t factor into NFL Sunday Ticket. According to All Things D, the package is “ancillary” to the NFL’s nearly $6 billion annual TV revenue, yet it includes the majority of games aired every Sunday.  There’s no doubt a deal giving a digital provider the rights to air all out-of-market games would turn a huge segment of audience away from traditional TV.

Audience metrics will be the deciding factor.  If the numbers favor internet over TV for American football, YouTube is the most viable candidate. Other sports are sure to follow.

Source: All Things D