TV Answer Man, there’s been something that has bugged me. Why doesn’t AT&T TV have the Sunday Ticket along with DIRECTV? AT&T owns both, right? So what’s the big deal with both having it? — Ken, Topeka.

Ken, for those not familiar with it, AT&T TV is the multi-channel, live streaming service that starts at $69.99 a month. AT&T, which does own the streamer, launched it nationwide in March 2020. Although AT&T originally said AT&T TV was intended to be an alternative to DIRECTV, the streaming service has never offered the NFL Sunday Ticket as a feature. The package of out-of-market NFL games has remained a DIRECTV exclusive.

Why is that?

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AT&T has never provided an explanation, but the reason seems obvious. DIRECTV has lost millions of subscribers over the last few years, and if the Sunday Ticket was available on AT&T TV, it would likely lose  many more. Although the Sunday Ticket subscribers might move to another family member (AT&T TV), DIRECTV’s average revenue per subscriber is significantly higher than AT&T TV’s. So AT&T wants to keep the Sunday Ticket fans subscribing to DIRECTV. AT&T TV is designed to attract cord-cutters who are looking for a cheaper alternative to cable and satellite.

AT&T’s contract with the NFL also could prevent the telco from providing the Sunday Ticket on the streaming service, but I suspect that’s not the case. In 2018, when AT&T owned the live streamer, DIRECTV Now, it offered the Sunday Ticket on that streaming service in several markets, including the Los Angeles area, Phoenix, Boston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Hartford and Louisville, Kentucky. (DIRECTV Now later changed its name to AT&T TV Now, and then merged with AT&T TV after the company launched the latter.)

The practice was stopped starting with the 2019 season, but it would suggest that AT&T is permitted to provide the Sunday Ticket on a pay TV service besides DIRECTV. In addition, AT&T sells a standalone streaming version of the football package to consumers who meet certain eligibility requirements such as living in select markets, or being unable to get DIRECTV at their residences.

Perhaps when AT&T completes its sale of 30 percent of DIRECTV (and AT&T TV) to the private equity firm, TPG, the two companies will decide to change course and offer the Sunday Ticket on AT&T TV as well. The sale, which is expected to close in the second half of this year, will establish DIRECTV, AT&T and U-verse as a separate company from AT&T.

Ken, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann