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YouTube’s NFL ‘Sunday Ticket’ deal is a win for traditional TV networks, too – here’s why



Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, center, runs for extra yardage while Tennessee Titans linebacker Monty Rice, left, and safety Andrew Adams (47) attempt a tackle during the second half at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

The National Football League had a streaming service in mind when it was looking for a new home for the rights to its “Sunday Ticket” subscription game package. 

The league got its desired outcome in a deal with Google‘s YouTube. Traditional TV networks got what they wanted out of it, too. 

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Beginning next season, “Sunday Ticket” will be offered in two ways through YouTube: either as an add-on to its YouTube TV service, a digital TV bundle that mirrors the traditional pay-TV package, or a la carte through YouTube’s Primetime Channels. 

YouTube is paying about $2 billion annually for residential rights over the next seven years, CNBC reported. The process concluded this week after months of negotiations with potential winners like Apple, Amazon and Disney, which operates ESPN streaming service ESPN+.

While pricing hasn’t been determined, consumers will likely get more bang for their buck by subscribing to YouTubeTV and adding on “Sunday Ticket,” which shows out-of-market NFL games on Sunday afternoons. It’ll also give them access to nearly all NFL games in one place. Google’s YouTube TV bundle includes broadcast stations like CBS, Fox and NBC. Fellow tech giants Apple and Amazon don’t provide a similar bundle offering with broadcast or pay-TV networks, such as ESPN and NFL Network.

Sports, and particularly the NFL, have long been considered the glue holding the traditional TV bundle together. Sports networks, and those that offer live games, attract some of the highest fees from pay-TV operators, and they score some of the highest ratings. The NFL makes large sums for the airing of live games.

For this reason, executives at longstanding broadcast and pay-TV networks, who declined to to be named because they weren’t permitted to talk publicly, found the deal with YouTube a favorable outcome over Apple or Amazon getting the package. 

YouTube and the NFL didn’t immediately comment.

Long live the bundle 

Paramount‘s CBS and Fox broadcast weekly Sunday afternoon games. Comcast‘s NBC is the home of “Sunday Night Football,” and Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, holds the rights to “Monday Night Football.” 

Each has paid hefty sums for those rights. Last year, collectively, the four agreed to pay more than $100 billion over the course of 11-year-long packages to air NFL games. 

For networks like NBC, CBS and ESPN, they are simultaneously airing NFL games on their fledgling streaming platforms for the audience that has turned away from the pay-TV bundle. 

All of those games are available through Google’s YouTube TV package, with the exception of “Thursday Night Football,” which now streams exclusively on Amazon Prime.

“YouTube in many ways is a very unique and interesting platform,” Dhruv Prasad, the NFL’s senior vice president of media strategy and strategic investments, said on a call with media this week, “because we have chosen a partner that actually supports, in many ways, our existing distribution with Sunday afternoon and night, and Monday night. We actually think this is a model where this will result in a real benefit with existing partners.”

I believe NFL media rights will be moving to a streaming service, says NFL's Goodell

While deals with traditional operators are wildly lucrative for the NFL, the league has been open about wanting more streaming partners. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said long before the outcome of the negotiations the league saw a streaming partner as the future of “Sunday Ticket,” which has only been offered through satellite-TV operator DirecTV since 1994. 

Although YouTube is streaming only, it offers a package that keeps the TV bundle alive – by paying similar rates as typical distributors, which has in turn caused a spike in the price of subscriptions. YouTube TV had more than 5.3 million subscribers as of the third quarter, putting it above its competitors like Disney’s Hulu Live TV+, Fubo TV and Dish’s Sling, according to data from MoffettNathanson. 

“This is a win for YouTube TV as it serves a larger goal for them getting more subscribers. And in the end, it helps a package of linear channels,” said sports media consultant Pat Crakes, noting YouTube also secured the rights “at a good price,” to help them bolster their streaming service. 

Adding another NFL property to the equation to make a TV bundle stickier with customers is a positive for networks, executives told CNBC. 

The streaming business, particularly for legacy media companies, has most recently been under pressure. While companies raced to form and bulk up their own services, trailing Netflix, rabid competition is now weighing on subscriber counts, and content costs are soaring. Although streaming remains a priority, some media CEOs are rethinking how much content to take away from the traditional bundle and put on streaming. 

The bundle is dead

For some in traditional media, however, YouTube becoming the home of “Sunday Ticket” wasn’t welcome news. 

For pay-TV operators, this could lead to more customers cutting their traditional bundles and replacing them with YouTube TV, said people close to the distributors. 

In the third quarter, cord-cutting hit all-time worst levels, according to research firm MoffettNathanson. 

“The linear model won’t die of old age, it will instead die of neglect,” analyst Craig Moffett said in a recent note. “If lynchpin content – read: marquee sports programming – is exclusively available on linear platforms, then the linear model will be preserved, at least for a time, and at least for a segment.” 

Driving customers toward YouTube TV subscriptions, or simply a la carte options, only amplifies the bleeding of pay-TV customers from traditional cable and telecommunications operators, like Charter Communications, Comcast and Dish. Executives on that side of the industry had hoped for Apple to win “Sunday Ticket” rights, people close to some distributors said, as it wouldn’t provide another linear bundle option.

One positive for distributors is that while YouTube TV has broadcast and pay-TV networks that offer sports and NFL games, the streamer still doesn’t offer regional sports networks as part of its package. For an all-around sports fan, this still makes the traditional bundle a better bet. 

Still, that could change. This week, Sinclair’s regional sports networks signed a deal with Fubo TV, putting its portfolio of networks on a digital pay-TV bundle. Such a deal with YouTube TV may not be far behind given the recent “Sunday Ticket” package. 

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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Lucid to cut 1,300 workers amid signs of flagging demand for its EVs



Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson poses at the Nasdaq MarketSite as Lucid Motors (Nasdaq: LCID) begins trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange after completing its business combination with Churchill Capital Corp IV in New York City, New York, July 26, 2021.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Struggling EV maker Lucid said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that it plans to cut about 18% of its workforce, or roughly 1,300 employees, as part of a larger restructuring to reduce costs as it works to ramp up production of its Air luxury sedan.

Lucid said it will incur one-time charges totaling between $24 million and $30 million related to the job cuts, with most of that amount being recognized in the first quarter of 2023.

News of the job cuts was first reported by Insider earlier on Tuesday. Lucid’s shares closed down over 7% on Tuesday following the Insider report.

In a letter to employees, CEO Peter Rawlinson said the job cuts will hit “nearly every organization and level, including executives,” and that affected employees will be notified over the next three days. Severance packages will include continued healthcare coverage paid by Lucid, as well as an acceleration of equity vesting, Rawlinson wrote.

Lucid ended 2022 with about $4.4 billion in cash on hand, enough to last until the first quarter of 2024, CFO Sherry House told CNBC last month ahead of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report. But there have been signs that demand for the high-priced Air has fallen short of Lucid’s internal expectations, and the company may be struggling to convert early reservations to sold orders.

Lucid said that it had more than 28,000 reservations for the Air as of Feb. 21, its most recent update. But it also said that it plans to build just 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles in 2023, far fewer than the roughly 27,000 that Wall Street analysts had expected.

With Lucid’s factory currently set up to build about 34,000 vehicles per year, the company has warned of continuing losses.

“As we produce vehicles at low volumes on production lines designed for higher volumes, we have and we will continue to experience negative gross profit related to labor and overhead costs,” House said during Lucid’s earnings call on Feb. 22.

Lucid hasn’t yet announced a date for its first-quarter earnings report.

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Virgin Orbit extends unpaid pause as Brown deal collapses, ‘dynamic’ talks continue



NEWQUAY, ENGLAND – JANUARY 09: A general view of Cosmic Girl, a Boeing 747-400 aircraft carrying the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing, as final preparations are made at Cornwall Airport Newquay on January 9, 2023 in Newquay, United Kingdom. Virgin Orbit launches its LauncherOne rocket from the spaceport in Cornwall, marking the first ever orbital launch from the UK. The mission has been named Start Me Up after the Rolling Stones hit. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Matthew Horwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Virgin Orbit is again extending its unpaid pause in operations to continue pursuing a lifeline investment, CEO Dan Hart told employees in a company-wide email.

Some of the company’s late-stage deal talks, including with private investor Matthew Brown, collapsed over the weekend, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Hart previously planned to update employees on the company’s operational status at an all-hands meeting at 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon, according to an email sent to employees Sunday night. At the last minute, that meeting was rescheduled “for no later than Thursday,” Hart said in the employee memo Monday.

“Our investment discussions have been very dynamic over the past few days, they are ongoing, and not yet at a stage where we can provide a fulsome update,” Hart wrote in the email to employees, which was viewed by CNBC.

Brown told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” last week he was in final discussions to invest in the company. A person familiar with the terms told CNBC the investment would have amounted to $200 million and granted Brown a controlling stake. But discussions between Virgin Orbit and the Texas-based investor stalled and broke down late last week, a person familiar told CNBC. As of Saturday those discussions had ended, the person said.

Separately, another person said talks with a different potential buyer broke down on Sunday night.

The people asked to remain anonymous to discuss private negotiations. A representative for Virgin Orbit declined to comment.

Hart promised Virgin Orbit’s over 750 employees “daily” updates this week. Most of the staff remain on an unpaid furlough that Hart announced on Mar. 15. Last week, a “small” team of Virgin Orbit employees returned to work in what Hart described as the “first step” in an “incremental resumption of operations,” with the intention of preparing a rocket for the company’s next launch.

Virgin Orbit’s stock closed at 54 cents a share on Monday, having fallen below $1 a share after the company’s pause in operations.

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Virgin Orbit developed a system that uses a modified 747 jet to send satellites into space by dropping a rocket from under the aircraft’s wing mid-flight. But the company’s last mission suffered a mid-flight failure, with an issue during the launch causing the rocket to not reach orbit and crash into the ocean.

The company has been looking for new funds for several months, with majority owner Sir Richard Branson unwilling to fund the company further.

Virgin Orbit was spun out of Branson’s Virgin Galactic in 2017 and counts the billionaire as its largest stakeholder, with 75% ownership. Mubadala, the Emirati sovereign wealth fund, holds the second-largest stake in Virgin Orbit, at 18%.

The company hired bankruptcy firms to draw up contingency plans in the event it is unable to find a buyer or investor. Branson has first priority over Virgin Orbit’s assets, as the company raised $60 million in debt from the investment arm of Virgin Group.

On the same day that Hart told employees that Virgin Orbit was pausing operations, its board of directors approved a “golden parachute” severance plan for top executives, in case they are terminated “following a change in control” of the company.

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Historic UAW election picks reform leader who vows more aggressive approach to auto negotiations



Supporters wave signs during an address at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 5, 2012 on the second day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Mladin Antonov | AFP | Getty Images

DETROIT – United Auto Workers members have ousted their president in the union’s first direct election, ushering in a new era for the prominent organized labor group ahead of negotiations later this year with the Detroit automakers.

The union’s new leader will be Shawn Fain, a member of the “UAW Members United” reform group and local leader for a Stellantis parts plant in Indiana. He came out ahead in a runoff election by hundreds of votes over incumbent Ray Curry, who was appointed president by union leaders in 2021.

Fain, in a statement Saturday, thanked UAW members who voted in the election. He also hailed the election results as a historic change in direction for the embattled union, which he says will take a “more aggressive approach” with its employers.

“This election was not just a race between two candidates, it was a referendum on the direction of the UAW. For too long, the UAW has been controlled by leadership with a top-down, company union philosophy who have been unwilling to confront management, and as a result, we’ve seen nothing but concessions, corruption, and plant closures,” Fain said.

Curry, who previously protested the narrow election results, said in a statement that Fain will be sworn in on Sunday and that Curry is “committed to ensuring that this transition is smooth and without disruptions.”

“I want to express my deep gratitude to all UAW staff, clerical support, leaders and most of all, our union’s active and retired members for the many years of support and solidarity. It has been the honor of my life to serve our great union,” Curry said.

More than 141,500 ballots were cast in the runoff election that also included two other board positions, a 33% increase from last year’s direct election in which neither of the presidential candidates received 50% or more of the votes.

The election was overseen by a federal monitor, who did not immediately confirm the results. The election results had been delayed several weeks due to a run-off election as well as the close final count.

Shawn Fain, candidate for UAW president, is in a run-off election with incumbent Ray Curry for the union’s highest-ranking position.

Jim West for UAW Members United

Fain’s election adds to the UAW’s largest upheaval in leadership in decades, as a majority of the union’ s International Executive Board will be made up of first-time directors who are not part of the “Administration Caucus” that has controlled the union for more than 70 years.

Fain and other members of his leadership slate ran on the promise of “No corruption. No concessions. No tiers.” The last being a reference to a tiered pay system implemented by the automakers during recent negotiations that members have asked to be removed.

The shuffle follows a yearslong federal investigation that uncovered systemic corruption involving bribery, embezzlement, and other crimes among the top ranks of the UAW.

Thirteen UAW officials were convicted as part of the probe, including two past presidents. As part of a settlement with the union in late 2020, a federal monitor was appointed to oversee the union and the organization held a direct election where each member has a vote, doing away with a weighted delegate process.

For investors, UAW negotiations with the Detroit automakers are typically a short-term headwind every four years that result in higher costs. But this year’s negotiations are anticipated to be among the most contentious and important in recent memory.

Fain has said the union will seek benefit gains for members, advocating for the return of a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, as well as raises and job security.

The change in the UAW comes against the backdrop of a broader organized labor movement across the country, a pro-union president and an industry in the transition to all-electric vehicles.

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