Apple VR headset is probably to blame for Google picking off NFL Sunday Ticket deal at the 11th hour

Disappointed that Tim Cook didn’t back the money truck up to the NFL for Sunday Ticket streaming rights? You can probably blame the rumored mixed reality Apple headset for the talks falling apart.

Apple and the NFL have been in talks for the better part of a year to strike a deal for NFL Sunday Ticket streaming rights. DirecTV has exclusively held the rights up to the current football season, but that will change at kickoff next season.

At one point, Apple was considered to not only be the top contender for the NFL package, but to have actually reached an agreement. Fast-forward several months later, Apple and the NFL reportedly ended negotiations without reaching a deal.

Apple’s loss appears to be Google’s gain if the latest reports pan out to be accurate. Google is expected to distribute NFL Sunday Ticket as an add-on service to its YouTube TV streaming service.

So why did Apple spend so long reportedly in talks with the NFL only to walk away at the 11th hour? The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan may have some insight into the reasoning, and streaming football in virtual reality may be to blame:

Apple and the NFL also could not agree on whether the company would get the right to distribute Sunday Ticket on as yet non-existent platforms. Apple is heavily investing in virtual reality and augmented reality, nascent platforms in which sports are so far largely not viewed. As a result, Apple wanted what is dubbed known and unknown rights, individuals familiar with the NFL and Apple said. In other words, there is no known virtual reality market for Sunday Ticket, but there might be one day.

Kaplan adds that the NFL “may view the AR and VR future platforms as new media categories worthy of separate deals.” Kaplan also says that it’s unclear if VR will be an issue for Google and the NFL, while suggesting that those aspects are off-limits this go around based on Apple’s discussions.

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At any rate, Apple will have its hand in this season’s Super Bowl on February 12. Apple Music is replacing Pepsi as the sponsor of the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show, which will be headlined by Rihanna.

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