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NFL Sunday Ticket Deal With DirectTV Extends Pact, Raises Questions

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 9:10 AM, under , , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 25, 2009) - DIRECTV has locked up the NFL Sunday Ticket for another five years. This mean, of course, that regular cable fans are locked out. But then again, I have had DIRECTV for many years and could never imagine going back to cable. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that my neighborhood's cable franchise, one of four in the county, has got to be one of the worst in the country.

But I digress.

Earlier this week, the National Football League announced an agreement to extend DIRECTV’s rights to carry NFL Sunday Ticket. DIRECTV will continue to have exclusive television rights to air the package of Sunday afternoon games through the 2014 NFL season.

The agreement also significantly broadens the reach of NFL Sunday Ticket by enabling NFL fans that cannot receive DIRECTV satellite service to get NFL Sunday Ticket via broadband. This service will begin no later than 2012.

How Does One Define CANNOT?

Now, I have never been one to parse words, but read this last line carefully:

"NFL fans that cannot receive DIRECTV satellite service to get NFL Sunday Ticket via broadband."

Note that it does not say fans that do not choose to receive DirecTV service. It says CANNOT, and this is further clarified somewhat in the remaninder of this release. It does, however, raise some questions:

Does this mean that whole areas of the country will not have access to the broadband games because they boought cable? or will they be able to by the package anyway? I would hope the latter because it will still be a cash cow for the company.

What about NFL fans outside the borders of the United States? Will they be able to access the broadband version, or will they be blacked out as well.

Will certain cable companies that offer high-speed internet, for example COMCAST, have the service blocked? It certainly is a possibility as COMCAST customers cannot access ESPN360 because of ESPN's deal with AT&T. This one needs a little more reserach because it is not clear if they do not get the free access that AT&T customers get and just have to pay for it, or if it is blocked totally.

In addition, the NFL will offer fans (also no later than 2012) a new “Red Zone Channel” that shows crucial live action cut-ins of all Sunday afternoon games starting at 1 p.m. ET and continuing through the conclusion of the 4 p.m. ET games. The “Red Zone Channel” will be available to cable, telco and satellite systems, wireless devices, and the Internet.

“We are pleased to extend a partnership with DIRECTV that has complemented and supported our broadcast television packages for 15 years,” said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. “We are looking forward to having the Red Zone channel on cable and other media platforms as well as showing NFL Sunday Ticket via broadband to the homes that cannot get satellite. This new content enhances our tradition of being the most pro-consumer, widely available sport on television.”

“The NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ service has been a part of DIRECTV since our first year of operation and is one of the defining characteristics of our best-in- class positioning,” said Chase Carey, president and CEO of DIRECTV Group. “This latest extension allows us to retain and broaden our most popular sports subscription service. Through our wireless offering to NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ customers and the new broadband service to non-customers, we’re now able to expand the reach to even more NFL fans everywhere.”

Among the new features for fans are:

* Red Zone Channel: subscribers who do not have DIRECTV will have access to the “Red Zone” channel through local cable systems or telco, satellite systems and Internet providers. This special channel has been part of NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV the past four seasons and will continue for those subscribers. It provides live look-ins and real-time highlights from every Sunday afternoon game starting at 1 P.M. (ET) through the late afternoon games. The channel switches from game to game and airs live action when a team is in the Red Zone (inside the 20-yard line) and poised to score. A host also provides real-time scoring and fantasy updates.

* NFL Sunday Ticket on Broadband: Fans who live in areas where DIRECTV’s service is not available, such as apartment buildings or in residences with poor sightlines to a satellite signal, will be able to purchase a new NFL Sunday Ticket broadband package.

DIRECTV customers who purchase NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ and the SuperFan™ package receive all Sunday afternoon games in HD; a Game Mix channel with up to eight games on one screen; the Red Zone Channel; the SUPERCAST™ service that streams every live NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ broadcast to laptop computers; and the NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ Mobile service that delivers up-to-the-minute highlights, and soon full-length games, to cell phones, pda’s and other wireless devices.

DIRECTV also has extended its carriage agreement with NFL Network which airs seven days a week, 24 hours a day on a year-round basis and is the only network fully dedicated to the NFL and the sport of football. NFL Network will continue to be offered in DIRECTV’s CHOICE package.

Currently have 1 comments:

  1. Chris - Interesting observation regarding "cannot." I suspect this is still headed for a fight. As we know, Comcast has already been reprimanded by the FCC for slowing or blocking certain services. The ESPN360 thing drives me crazy.

    My gut feeling is this... NFL offers Comcast and TWC each an equity stake in NFLN in exchange for not blocking broadband and placing on basic tier. In next media rights auction, NFL places a game a week on NFLN.

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