TV Answer Man, I have read that if you live in certain cities, you can subscribe to the streaming plan for the NFL Sunday Ticket even if you can get DIRECTV at your home? But I live in one of those cities and I have tried to subscribe to the Sunday Ticket and I can’t. But a friend of mine who does live in the same city, here in Las Vegas, can! What is up with this? Can you get the Sunday Ticket without DIRECTV or not? And does it require a certain type of home or profile? — Peter, Las Vegas. 

Peter, DIRECTV offers a streaming version of the NFL Sunday Ticket that has the same features and games as the satellite TV edition. For years, the online plan was thought to only be available to people who could prove they could not install a dish at their residence, or were a university student. (The university plan was expanded this year to students who were enrolled within the last 18 months.)

However, AT&T spokesman Jim Greer last year told me there are 29 markets in which someone can subscribe even if they can install a dish at their home. He said not every one in those markets is eligible, but that some people are. (You can see the 29 markets here.)

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For the record, I asked Greer the following question in an e-mail:

“Do you have a list of all the markets where a non-DIRECTV customer can subscribe to the streaming edition of the Sunday Ticket?”

Greer responded: “Here is the list of metro areas with select zip codes that qualify (we plan to post these soon on our website).”

“Just to confirm,” I wrote back, “you don’t need to be a student, or prove you can’t get DIRECTV at your residence, right? Any consumer in those 29 select markets can order the streaming plan, right?”

Greer’s response: “I’d encourage folks to check their eligibility on the (Sunday Ticket) website.”

AT&T never added the 29 markets to the web site, but in a follow-up e-mail, Greer pointed to the “offer details” of the streaming plan which say:

“NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV service is only available to non-DIRECTV customers who live in select multi-dwelling unit buildings (apartments, condos, etc.,) nationwide in the U.S. where DIRECTV service is not available, live in select areas within various metropolitan cities, live in a residence that has been verified as unable to receive DIRECTV satellite TV service due to obstructions blocking access to satellite signals, actively or previously enrolled college students. NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV U only available to students actively enrolled or previously enrolled within the last 18 months in post-secondary educational institutions from the date of purchase.”

I bolded the key phrase: “Live in select areas within metropolitan cities.” That’s the 29 markets that Greer was talking about.

However, Greer would not elaborate on who was eligible in those 29 markets and who wasn’t. After my article was published, prompted by Greer’s ‘encouragement,’ many football fans in those “select areas” did check their eligibility at the online Sunday Ticket site. And some reported they were able to subscribe, but a larger number said they could not. This generated considerable frustration because there seemed to be no pattern to why some could and some could not.

The mystery behind the ’29 markets’ has only grown in the last year so I thought I would try again to ask DIRECTV for an explanation on the apparent inconsistency in eligibility. After all, DIRECTV is now a separate company with a different management team after AT&T sold a 30 percent minority stake to private equity firm, TPG.

I asked DIRECTV spokesman Nick Ammazzalorso the following question via e-mail:

“In the streaming edition of the Sunday Ticket, the fine print says the plan is available to people in “select areas within Metropolitan cities. Last year, Jim Greer told me the metro cities included 29 markets. Is the list of 29 metro cities the same as last year? And, is there anyway to tell who is eligible within those metropolitan cities besides inputting your address to determine eligibility?”

His response: “The markets are the same but the pattern of the eligibility is based on a lot of things, including building density (other buildings in the area), did an installer attempt an install and couldn’t, are they in a MDU vs a single family home (MDU addresses are eligible, but not SFH unless they cannot be installed).”

I noted that those eligibility rules seemed to be the same for anyone, not just people in the 29 markets. If you can’t install a dish, you’re eligible. If you live in a multi-dwelling unit, you’re eligible. And so on. The only possible difference might be is if your multi-dwelling unit can get DIRECTV, you might still be eligible in the 29 markets while perhaps not outside those markets.

I tried to get more clarification by following up with this: “It sounds like there’s nothing different about the 29 markets. In all markets, you should be able to get it if you can’t get satellite reception. That’s not just for the 29 markets, right?”

Ammazzalorso’s response: “Right.”

I then asked: “So am I right to say there’s nothing different about the 29 markets?”

He never responded.

So a year later, we still don’t know why some people are eligible for the streaming Sunday Ticket and some are not, particularly in those mysterious 29 markets. As Greer noted a year ago, you’ll just have to check your eligibility at the Sunday Ticket web site, which, by the way, encourages you to subscribe to DIRECTV if you are deemed ineligible.

Update: Nick Amazzalorso added this statement on Saturday, September 11:

“Areas identified in pockets of the 29 markets are strong candidates for streaming NFL Sunday Ticket because of satellite limitations due to building density or topography.

Happy viewing, everyone. And stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann