Want to spend Sundays watching the football games that are not on your local stations but can't subscribe to DirecTV and get its Sunday Ticket package that shows every game? Your troubles may be over. Now DirecTV will offer that package to you via the Internet without having to sign up for the satellite broadcaster's pay-TV service.
There's one catch. You have to be able to convince DirecTV that you have a legitimate reason not to subscribe to its satellite broadcasting service. Often, the reasons people can't buy DirecTV are because landlords won't let them put up the dish, or they live in an area where getting a clear line of sight to pick up the signal is difficult. New York City, for example, has few dishes because of both the skyline and a reluctance on the part of many landlords to allow dishes on their buildings. DirecTV, which was given the rights to offer an Internet-only version of Sunday Ticket in its last TV deal with the National Football League, tested the service last year in New York City and now is rolling it out nationwide.
Although the number of people likely to take this offer is probably pretty small, that doesn't mean Fox and CBS, the two rights holders for Sunday NFL football, are cheering this. Although both are aware DirecTV has this option, anything that can potentially shrink their audience is worrisome.
The cost to subscribe to an Internet version of Sunday Ticket will be about $350, which breaks down to a little more than $20 per game. That sounds like a lot, but a hardcore sports fan who goes to a bar to see his favorite team (assuming that team isn't on a local television station, as is the case with me and my Washington Redskins), the cost of food and beverage probably tops that amount.
Furthermore, who wouldn't want to watch the game in peace as opposed to at a noisy bar. And as people get more adept at hooking their Internet to the television, they won't necessarily have to watch the game while hunched over a computer. That said, I have had the pleasure of sampling the NFL's online offerings of preseason games, and the picture quality is amazing.
DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package currently costs about $300 a season and has around 2 million subscribers. The satellite broadcaster says it is not going to do a lot of promotion of its new Internet offering and does not expect a big response.
Still, as more games become available on more platforms, the long-term rights holders may have to start thinking twice about the big bucks they shell out for football if they can prove that their ratings are in danger as a result.
As for yours truly, until the Redskins can convince me that they are not headed for another mediocre season, I'll hold off on getting my landlord to send DirecTV a note so I can sign up for this service.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: DirecTV pitchman and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/ US Presswire.