News and Analysis
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that DIRECTV has issued NFL Sunday Ticket refunds to “at least some customers” who have asked for them because they are upset about players protesting during the National Anthem.

Normally, DIRECTV does not offer refunds to the pricey package of out-of-market Sunday games after the season begins. But WSJ quotes Ticket subscribers as saying they were given refunds when they called DIRECTV to complain about the Anthem protests.

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DIRECTV customers have posted similar comments on social media sites, such as Twitter.

AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, and the NFL, refused to comment for the article, but the story itself suggests DIRECTV does not have an official policy to offer refunds for Anthem protests.

“DirecTV service representatives contacted by The Wall Street Journal had different understandings of the policy,” the article states. “One said refunds to those concerned about the anthem protests were only offered to subscribers with certain offers or plans. One representative said full refunds were available for those who complained about anthem protests. Another said such people could only get prorated refunds for the remainder of the season. Yet other representatives said the policy hadn’t changed and that no refunds were allowed for any reason.”

So, are they giving refunds for the Anthem protests or not?

Here’s my educated take, based on 23 years of using DIRECTV, and covering it from a journalist’s perspective:

DIRECTV is giving refunds to ‘high value’ subs who ask for them. But not just anyone.

That’s why the customer service reps are giving conflicting statements. The refund is not company policy; taking care of ‘high value’ subs is always policy. (A high value customer  is one who subscribes to a premium programming package and/or has been a subscriber for several years.)

So the WSJ story is correct — some customers are getting refunds — but don’t construe this as meaning it’s now AT&T’s policy. The telco’s executives are too smart to initiate a policy that would upset subscribers sympathetic to the protesters, as well as the league which is trying to create the perception that the protests are not hurting ratings or merchandising sales.

My guess is that the customer service team acted on its own to try to keep those high-paying subscribers happy, as it usually does in any contentious situation.

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However, AT&T is now in a pickle thanks to the WSJ article which many journalists are interpreting as meaning a refund for all those who ask is company policy.

If AT&T issues a statement saying it backs the refunds, it will alienate protest supporters, and upset the league. If it issues a statement saying it doesn’t really back the refunds, it will upset subscribers who oppose the protests.

The dilemma like that is enough to bring you to your knees.

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— Phillip Swann