Market Insight

DirecTV to offer streaming NFL Sunday Ticket to non-subscribers

July 18, 2014

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DirecTV is to begin offering, which will allow non-DirecTV subscribers access to NFL Sunday Ticket via laptops, tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles.

Potential subscribers must meet one of the following requirements:

  • living within one of three specified metropolitan areas-New York, San Francisco, or Philadelphia,
  • enrolled at one of the ten universities indicated by DirecTV,
  • in an apartment building where DirecTV’s satellite TV service is not available

There will be three packages with varying degrees of access on different connected devices, ranging in price from $199.99 per season for access via laptop, computer, and phone, to $239.99 for access via gaming consoles, to $329.99 for the max subscription which includes all platforms and additional features such as access to NFL Red Zone and DirecTV’s new Fantasy Zone channel.

Our analysis

NFL Sunday Ticket has been offered on traditional TV exclusively through DirecTV since 1994. The current contract ending after the 2014 National Football League (NFL) NFL season between DirecTV and the NFL was announced in 2009 and took effect in 2011. Under the terms of the current deal:

  1. DirecTV pays US $1 billion each season for the rights to broadcast NFL games,
  2. the NFL is able to pursue deals with other cable and internet providers to offer its Red Zone Channel, and
  3. cable and IPTV subscribers living in areas in which DirecTV’s service is not available would be able to buy the Sunday Ticket service over the internet.

DirecTV waited until the last season of its contract to launch to nonsubscribers. In this context is it telling that i.) the company already has the rights to distribute NFL games online and ii.) there appear to be no major technical restrictions on DirecTV’s ability to exploit those rights as it had been offering Sunday Ticket to pay TV subscribers online and mobile since 2010 and on the PS3 in 2011. Consequently it appears that the company’s delay was an internal business decision, rather than motivated by external factors.

The older online Sunday Ticket offer was extended to DirecTV subscribers and those with home owner association restrictions against satellite dishes or satellite connectivity issues. The new expansion represents a cautious softening of these restrictions adding three metropolitan areas and 10 specified universities. The restrictions along with the timeliness of the release—in the last season of the current contract—is keeping in line with previous strategies to restrict potential subscribers and may well be intended to both minimize the impact of the standalone online offer on customers who are prepared to take the full TV subscription – this applies to both news customers and the potential for existing customers to churn. In reality the restrictions that DirecTV has in place mean that only a small portion of customers who are eligible for the new Sunday Ticket offer will become subscribers.

Inking a deal with the NFL positioned DirecTV to provide a service many Americans were willing to pay extra for: football. Sunday Ticket is a major differentiator for DirecTV’s video-only service. In the, past both satellite operators, Dish and DirecTV utilized content offerings like premium HD channels and sports packages to incentivize customers towards their services whilst competing with traditional pay TV operators well-known for their VoD and bundled communications services. HD differentiation has reduced as cable companies are starting to catch up to satellite companies.

DirecTV and the NFL have currently not reached terms for a new contract, running late on negotiations compared to the previous contract.


North America USA
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