Could the NFL Kill the DirecTV-AT&T Deal?

This Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 image made from an NFL Sunday Ticket computer tablet app shows highlights from the football game between the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots played on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 in Foxborough, Mass. via DirecTV. (AP Photo/DirecTV)
The NFL’s Sunday Ticket package through DirecTV could play a role in the AT&T-DirecTV merger.
AP Photo/DirecTV

The NFL is a deeply powerful corporate overlord—err, non-profit organization. Powerful enough, it appears, that it could conceivably kill the DirecTV-AT&T merger.

A clause in the deal, as originally reported by Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman and published on Business Insider, would allow AT&T to back out of the deal if DirecTV does not renew its deal with the NFL for the Sunday Ticket package, which lets subscribers pay an extra fee to see every NFL game on any device.

It’s a fat chance. As Business Insider notes, the Sunday Ticket deal will probably get done. And even if it didn’t get done, AT&T would probably still have plenty of interest in the satellite service.

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But the clause is a nice reminder of how central the NFL—and for that matter live sports in general, which many people grudgingly acknowledge as the only reason they still have a cable or satellite service—is to any sort of cable or TV deal.