Update: Read DirecTV's response here.
Traditionally throughout the history of the NFL, vagabond, lame-duck franchises on their way out of town for a new stadium deal in another city don't contend for Super Bowls.
Judging by the rampant social-media complaints during the first three weeks of the NFL regular season — DirecTV's last as holder of “NFL Sunday Ticket” rights — the pay TV company’s streaming tech for the out-of-market games package is far from being a championship contender.
In those first three weeks, Twitter has been beset with Sunday Ticket users complaining about the performance of the NFLSundayTicket.tv site and app.
DirecTV seems to have been generally responsive to these social-media complaints, asking users to direct-message the company to seek resolution.
Publicly, however, the company hasn't acknowledged any widespread problems with its streaming tech.
We have a theory that there definitely is a problem — and we know what it is.
In November of last year, Next TV noted email marketing come-ons that it had been receiving at its Los Angeles office, directly from the NFL on “behalf of DirecTV,” asking us to sign up for NFLSundayTicket.tv, the DTC streaming version of the linear service long enjoyed by DirecTV satellite subscribers.
NFLSundayTicket.tv has long been available to the segment of American consumers who can't mount a satellite dish pointed to the southern sky, mainly apartment-dwellers. Lo and behold, our Mid-City Los Angeles duplex, which once had no less than five satellite dishes mounted on its rooftop by previous owners, was eligible to receive the DTC iteration of the service.
Indeed, friends, family members and hangers-on situated in single-story homes with satellite-capable rooftops all over Southern California also discovered themselves eligible for NFLSundayTicket.tv … although one reader in Green Bay, Wisconsin said he was denied because his condo is eligible for satellite service.
DirecTV, which had just been spun off from AT&T in a 70/30 deal with private equity company TPG at the time, denied that Sunday Ticket was being taken over-the-top and direct-to-consumer.
However, punch in the term “NFL Sunday Ticket” into your web browser today, and the first landing page that surfaces is one for the NFLSundayTicket.tv streaming package, inviting visitors to “stream NFL games today” with “no satellite required.”
If you look for it, you'll notice that this landing page does feature the disclaimer that the Sunday Ticket service “is only available to non-DirecTV customers who live in select multi-dwelling unit buildings (apartments, condos, etc.) nationwide in the U.S. where DirecTV service is not available.”
We suspect, however, that the NFL — which has been transparent about wanting to open Sunday Ticket to streaming consumers — has plied pressure to DirecTV to open the NFLSundayTicket.tv tent, and that the pay TV provider isn't enforcing the traditional restrictions in a number of regions.
We also suspect that DirecTV‘s infrastructure hasn't been able to handle the influx of streaming customers. And in the last year of its contract, DirecTV isn't too eager to invest much into fixing the problem.
DirecTV will pay the NFL another $1 billion this season to finish its three-decade term as the exclusive Sunday Ticket rights holder. Apple, Amazon, Google and The Walt Disney Co. are bidding to take over the contract. ▪️
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!