YouTube CEO Neal Mohan said the video giant is more focused on refining its newest sports experience, NFL Sunday Ticket, than it is in pursuing NBA rights when they become available after the 2024-25 season.
Speaking at Bloomberg’s Screentime event in LA, Mohan didn’t rule out a potential bid but said it isn’t a near-term priority. Disney/ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery currently share domestic rights but questions have swirled about the future rights arrangement given the recent entry of streaming giants into the live sports business. At the same time Big Tech has moved in, traditional media companies have been belt-tightening and coping with the shrinking pay-TV bundle, advertising softness and the expense of bolstering their own direct-to-consumer streaming efforts.
“We’re taking it one step at a time right now,” Mohan said. “We have the NFL. Sunday Ticket is a big area of focus for us, getting that viewer experience right, making that game-day experience on Sunday flawless and seamless. And you should expect from us more innovation there, in terms of products, creator integrations, all the things that our fans — especially younger fans of the NFL on YouTube — expect.”
The NBA has long operated one of YouTube’s most popular channels, Mohan noted. “We have a long-term partnership with them, but in terms of our focus right now it’s on the NFL and that experience.”
Asked about initial subscriber numbers for Sunday Ticket, which had been exclusive to DirecTV for 29 years before YouTube acquired it in a 7-year, $14 billion deal, Mohan demurred. But the exec said he was pleased with its initial progress. “We have millions and millions of sports fans on our platform, and the whole point of Sunday Ticket is to super-serve those fans.”
The session covered a few other topics, including YouTube Shorts. Asked about creator grumbling about the new platform being foisted upon them and general YouTube users, Mohan replied that Shorts has reached 70 billion views a day, up from 50 billion in January. “The viewers are voting with their behavior,” he said.