On Tuesday, the National Football League sent out an email blast, which it said was made "on behalf of DirecTV," inviting recipients to try the NFLSundayTicket.tv streaming service.
NFLSundayTicket.tv is a streaming service available only to select customers, such as college students living in dormitories and those living in multifamily dwellings without their own rooftops, who are unable to receive satellite TV.
And the fine print at the bottom of the NFL's marketing email states: "NFLSundayTicket.tv 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, live in select areas within various metropolitan cities, live in a residence that has been verified as unable to receive DirecTV satellite TV service due to obstructions blocking access to satellite signals, or are college students."
However, clicking through the email blast, and testing eligibility with our own address, as well as two other friends and family members living in Southern California, Next TV was able to sign up for both the $73.49-a-month SundayTicket.tv To Go and the $93.99-per-month SundayTicket.tv Max tier (which also includes NFL RedZone and NFL Fantasy Zone channels). All three addresses belonged to former DirecTV customers, meaning the residences don't have any issues with using satellite TV equipment. And the email address used by the league didn't match the one we used to correspond to DirecTV with when we had a subscription, which was canceled back in 2015.
According to a DirecTV rep, the email was an "error" made by the NFL, and NFLSundayTicket.tv remains only available to satellite-restricted users.
The NFL didn't immediately respond to our email inquiry.
DirecTV pays the NFL around $1.5 billion per season to license the NFL Sunday Ticket games bundle, which provides subscribers willing to pay $395.99 for a full four-month season live TV access to every NFL regular season game being played outside their own market each Sunday. (The NFL's SundayTicket.tv blast appears to offer prorated rates covering the remainder of a season that's still in progress.)
DirecTV, which was recently spun off from AT&T to an entity partly owned by private equity firm TPG, has held the NFL Sunday Ticket license since the product launched in the mid-1990s. But the satellite TV operator doesn't appear interested in re-upping the pricey agreement, which expires after the next pro football season.
The NFL, meanwhile, has reportedly talked to Amazon and Apple about taking over the NFL Sunday Ticket license. The league is said to be particularly interested in expanding the property into video streaming.
AT&T stopped breaking out individual metrics for DirecTV, but reported 15.4 million customers at the end of Q2 for its "premium TV" services, which include DirecTV, AT&T TV and AT&T U-verse. The three pay TV services collectively lost 473,000 customers in the second quarter. It's unclear how many of those remaining DirecTV customers take NFL Sunday Ticket.
Beyond negotiating a new deal for the 2023 football season with a technology giant like Amazon or Apple, is the NFL content to sit on its hands the next season and a half, as DirecTV's linear audience dwindles away, exploiting only a tiny portion of the digital consumer base that's technically eligible to receive NFLSundayTicket.tv?
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. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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