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When the Halftime Show is not the Main Attraction

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is always an absurd spectacle, and now that spectacle is up for sale again. Apple Music is set to replace Pepsi as the main sponsor of the annual musical event. The Halftime show purchase has been part of a much larger television rights negotiation between the NFL and Apple. The NFL has been asking for as much as 2.5 billion USD for the right to its Sunday Ticket, a package of Sunday football games known as the most valuable day in sports. That 2.5 billion USD is more than 1 billion more than its current contract with DirectTV. But while the main package is still being negotiated, Apple Music has been able to step in and secure rights to the most-watched minutes of television of the year.

This kind of sponsorship is new for Apple, a company that has always been known to do things a little differently than other mega-brands like Pepsi or McDonald’s. These latter companies have extensive histories of supporting sporting events, but Apple seldom sponsors events over which it does not have complete control. In fact, not since 2016 has Apple used its name in such an event, and in that case, it was the Met Gala. The Met Gala foray was meant as a launch event for the Apple Watch.

The Bigger Picture

The much larger deal between Apple and the NFL is part of the league’s attempt to become the leading provider of streaming sports. Most people throughout the United States are getting rid of their standard television packages and are instead opting for streaming packages from the likes of Netflix and Disney. In 2021, the NFL inked a 13 billion USD, 11-year deal with Amazon for Thursday night games, while also announcing that it would be selling its Sunday Ticket to some streaming provider. The NFL has had extensive discussions with ESPN, Amazon, and Google, but it has spent the most negotiation time with Apple. As of right now, both sides expect to ink a deal sometime soon, but with so many assets in the air at one time, negotiations are complicated.

According to sources, one of the biggest issues for Apple is that NFL’s asking price is massive. It is not only 1 billion USD more than its current deal, but it is also at a price point that may not allow Apple to recoup losses so easily. Apple did not become the world’s largest company by allowing itself to be squeezed. As Walter White would put it, Apple is the one who knocks. Thus, the NFL is still soliciting deals from other streaming platforms, but none of those platforms wants to expend massive efforts just to be the NFL’s leverage for a deal with Apple.

At the end of the day, Apple is still looking like the most likely landing spot for NFL games in the coming years. The Halftime Show deal is a relatively small step towards a larger deal, but it has significant symbolic value. No matter what happens, the NFL’s transition to a streaming provider means the business side of professional sports has truly entered a new era. It is yet another nail in the coffin of traditional media.