DirecTV opens NFL Sunday Ticket to non-subscribers
You no longer have to subscribe to DirecTV to watch one of the satellite broadcaster's most-touted exclusives--its NFL Sunday Ticket package.
Starting with this season, football fans who pay another company for TV service (or don't pay for TV at all) can sign up for a broadband-only version of Sunday Ticket--provided they first persuade DirecTV that they can't get DirecTV.
A company choosing to take new customers' money normally doesn't count as news. But it does in the constrained universe of pay-TV services, in which a network will build a new video site and then only let a subset of its existing subscribers watch its shows there.
Broadband-only access to Sunday Ticket--which lets subscribers watch every Sunday-afternoon game, excluding those aired by their local CBS or Fox stations and those subject to local blackouts when games don't sell out--will cost $350. That's $50 more than the fee to add Sunday Ticket to a compatible DirecTV package (before any promotions), and the same as the combined price of Sunday Ticket and a "To-Go" option for computer and smartphone viewing.
DirecTV says its new, online-only option is a separate product but still calls it "NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go"; then again, its features and most of its requirements match those of the Sunday Ticket add-on. The El Segundo, Calif., company touts "HD-quality streaming" but doesn't specify a bandwidth requirement beyond 700 kilobits per second--not nearly enough for high-definition viewing on other sites. You'll need a PC or a Mac running version 10 of Adobe's Flash Player; for mobile viewing, DirecTV supports current iPhones and some Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm smartphones.
But DirecTV's site doesn't clarify how it will enforce its other requirement to get Sunday Ticket To-Go without its regular TV service--that you not be able to receive DirecTV at home. Spokesman Robert Mercer didn't offer details in an earlier e-mail conversation, so we can only guess how the company will rule on your eligibility--check its records for previous accounts at your address, inspect a Google Maps Street View photo see if your home is shrouded by trees, ask for a note from your mom?
By adding this Web-only option, DirecTV fulfills a promise it made to the National Football League when it renewed its Sunday Ticket deal in 2009. (The NFL, in turn, sells a "Game Rewind" service that lets you watch games after their completion.) DirecTV first offered online Sunday Ticket subscriptions to Manhattan residents last year on a test basis.
DirecTV's site says that you can order the online-only variant of Sunday Ticket To-Go tomorrow. I'll try placing an order then to see what the site says about its eligibility rules and will update this post with my findings.
(9/9, 9:50 a.m. The order form includes two checkboxes that you must click to confirm: "I certify that I have never subscribed to DIRECTV TV service at my current address" and "I certify that I am not able to subscribe to DIRECTV TV service at my current address." There's no other sort of verification visible; however, a reader e-mailed this morning that DirecTV's installer insisted that customers would first have to buy a regular DirecTV package, and only if the installer confirmed that reception wouldn't work could the order be changed to the online Sunday Ticket option.)
You're welcome to do the same and leave your report in the comments--and in the meantime, tell me what you think of DirecTV's online-only offer in general.
September 8, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories: TV , Video
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