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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.

directv_logo.jpg

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.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 8, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  TV , Video  
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Comments

That's progress toward more online video programming. I guess it is inevitable but it sure seems to be taking a long time.

I didn't know that football package was so expensive!

In DC you might also be able to argue for the service if you live in a historic district, the guidelines for which are hazy but generally prohibit mounting antennas on the front of a home. You can mount them on the roof, but it's worth a try.

Posted by: Bob_Dobbs | September 8, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I would not want to afford it, and I don't believe that even with a DSL connection it would be a quality experience. All the hype about people migrating to the internet to watch tv and movies is just that.

FIOS and really high-speed broadband are not available very far from a city. I think Verizons decision to limit the FIOS expansion shows there's not much of a market for such high priced connections.

And even if I wanted to, I can't find but two of the shows I watch that are available on the internet.

If you connect your PC to a big screen TV, which is possible, but not really that practical, unless you have a big budget to make it happen without wires laying around your hallways etc., it becomes more than a normal person can do or wants to do.

Posted by: tojo45 | September 8, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The facts, DirectTv is a part of ATT, so as to make money on dtv why, not charge as much as they can, all a bunch of stuff...

Posted by: me58 | September 8, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

To sign up, you just have to certify that you do not have DirecTv service, cannot have it, and have not previously had it at your current address.

Posted by: wilson446 | September 9, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

This seems like a minor innovation but you can see in it the seeds of Ala Carte TV on a per channel basis for Americans, from the cable network owners, which control both the cable and satellite industry's programming. Americans are tired of paying more and more for batches of channels they don't want to watch. The key here is that Direct TV is NOT part of the Cable Industry Channel Owners that control most programming and how it is distributed on Cable and Satellite. It is they who won't allow ala carte cable selection in the US. For fear of tampering with the until recently very successful advertising business model. But if Direct TV gets an enormous number of customers ala carte at a fee that amounts to nearly $30 a month, over a broadband computer connection, the gateway is open to other cable channels doing the same thing. I would subscribe to Turner Classic Movies Alone and pay a large fee for just it, and buy a TIVO to collect movies from it, even at $350 a year, though I expect the charge would be far lower. A revenue stream like this one would create even more esoteric experiments in programming that would enrich a TV watching experience that is literally duller than it was 31 years ago when I started putting satellite programming on the local cable system I operated then. The satellite channel operators have pulled out the stops in the period since to offer less for more, until everyone's bored to death with television. Even that last barricade against service Direct TV erects as an obstacle, reminds one of the wink and a nod satellite providers used to use when offering Big City network affiliates as replacements for local yokel network affiliates, off satellite., a practice that the local affiliates fought at the regulatory level for years until they finally got it stopped. There wouldn't be a local net effort to stop this. But defenders of the advertising model which I think gets more bankrupt with each passing day, are not likely to go gently into that good night. This subtle venture by Direct TV plants the seed of a revolution.

Posted by: miker3 | September 9, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

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