AT&T-DirecTV merger contingent on NFL and 'Sunday Ticket'?

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The 'NFL Sunday Ticket' could be a holdup for a DirecTV-AT&T merger.
The 'NFL Sunday Ticket' could be a holdup for a DirecTV-AT&T merger.(USATSI)

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AT&T made big waves over the weekend with a $49 billion purchase of satellite television provider DirecTV. But a final purchase could ultimately hinge on the NFL.

According to AT&T's Form 8-K filing with the SEC, if DirecTV doesn't renew "NFL Sunday Ticket" then AT&T may choose "not to consummate the Merger."

DirecTV has just a single year of "Sunday Ticket" remaining -- the provider's exclusive agreement with the NFL ends following the 2014 NFL season.

However, the two sides extended an exclusive negotiating window following the end of the 2013 season, according to DirecTV CEO Mike White.

"Obviously, things tend to get pushed to the side ... but now that we're through the Super Bowl we've both agreed to extend our exclusive negotiating period," White said in February. "Our conversations with the NFL are progressing in a very positive and constructive manner."

Based on the timing of the respective negotiations, you'd think the NFL was and is apprised of the details between AT&T and DirecTV when it comes to the merger.

DirecTV losing out on "Sunday Ticket" won't mean AT&T can sue the satellite provider; the language in the merger sates as long as DirecTV "used its reasonable best efforts" to keep the package, AT&T "will not have a damages claim" arising from the lack of "Sunday Ticket."

And, in theory, AT&T could simply choose to proceed with the merger despite a lack of "Sunday Ticket," should DirecTV fail to retain the package.

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