The NFL Quietly Takes 'Sunday Ticket' DTC and OTT
BY DANIEL FRANKEL
NFLSundayTicket.tv is supposed to be available only to students and apartment dwellers who can't get DirecTV satellite TV service. But the NFL seems to be marketing it more widely than that.
It doesn't appear to be a error, after all--the NFL is indeed marketing a streaming version of its NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market games package, NFLSundayTicket.tv, to anyone and everyone, regardless as to whether they can subscribe to DirecTV satellite TV service or not.
On Tuesday, Next TV received a second email promotion in the last two months from the NFL, inviting us to sign on to the streaming version of NFL Sunday Ticket for a prorated rate of $147 for the remainder of the 2021 NFL season.
Even though we're non-DirecTV customers who live in a single-story Los Angeles duplex with a clear view of the southern sky, a residence that has successfully received DirecTV satellite service in the past, we were able to sign up and receive NFL Sunday Ticket live game streaming, a la carte and over the top, directly from the NFL, starting with Sunday's game slate.
We received this same offer last month, and we were told by a DirecTV press rep that the marketing blast was the result of an "error," and that nothing had changed in regard to the distribution policy for SundayTicket.tv.
Just like last month's email, the most recent blast included the following disclaimer: "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."
Our duplex is located in an area filled with multifamily housing and is positioned only three miles west of the University of Southern California campus. So yes, theoretically, the NFL--which lists its blast as being from "The NFL on Behalf of DirecTV"--could be off-target with its email marketing. (The blasts originate from "NFL@email.nfl.com.")
But once again, within the NFLSundayTicket.tv signup portal, we tested a number of addresses of friends and family members residing in suburban family homes, all fully able to receive DirecTV, and were given the green light for service each and every time. Supported devices for the NFLSundayTicket.tv app include Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV, Apple TV, Samsung Fire TV, Xbox game and PlayStation game consoles, and iOS and Android mobile devices.
How many folks are receiving these blasts? Tough to say. Journalist Phillip Swann, who covers the satellite TV business, said he's heard anecdotal reports from consumers who don't take DirecTV but can, who subscribe to NFLSundayTicket.tv.
He wrote about it as recently as September, but told us, "This has been going on for years."
UPDATED 11/17/2021: A Green Bay Packers fan now living in Minnesota said he tried signing up for Sunday Ticket, but was told no dice because his condo was eligible for satellite service. And another NFL fan said he was able to sign up for the streaming package at his address in tony Manhattan Beach, Calif., but unable to do so at his residence 70 miles north in Ojai, Calif.
Swann said the NFL seems to be making Sunday Ticket available to non-DirecTV customers in select metropolitan areas.
Meanwhile, a DirecTV rep emailed us early Wednesday evening with this statement: "Any assumption that we are not closely coordinated with the league on informing eligible consumers is false.
The rep added, "Your location likely is eligible because your zip code is, 'in select areas within various metropolitan cities' as outlined in the disclaimer of the communication."
So, our ability to sign up for the service wasn't an error all along?
Again, we tried five other zip codes across Southern California regions, ranging from affluent Orange County suburbs to rural San Bernardino desert communities. Each address was a single-family home that had satellite TV service in the past.
The NFL, which has distributed Sunday Ticket through DirecTV since the package was developed in the mid-1990s, is reportedly eager to make it available in a direct-to-consumer, streaming format. Its multibillion contract with DirecTV doesn't expire until the end of the 2022 season, however.
Could it be the league doesn't want to wait that long to go DTC and OTT?