TV Answer Man, I was thinking of getting DIRECTV Stream but I didn’t see the NFL Network in their lineup at the web site. Do you know if they have the NFL Network? If not, will they add it? — Jamal, Reno, Nevada.
Jamal, despite carrying nearly all regional sports channels, which is a rarity in the live streaming business, DIRECTV Stream does not carry the NFL Network, the league’s official channel which offers a mix of news, documentaries and live games.
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This was not always the case. The NFL Network omission traces back to April 2019 when DIRECTV Stream was called DIRECTV Now and AT&T was the streamer’s sole owner. AT&T then was unable to secure a new carriage agreement with the NFL for the NFL Network or the NFL RedZone Channel, although it did so for DIRECTV, the satellite TV service. (DIRECTV still carries the NFL Network and has a RedZone Channel as part of the Sunday Ticket.)
“The NFL Network and Red Zone Channel remain available to all fans on DIRECTV,” AT&T said in a statement then. “However, as we continue to manage content costs, we could not reach an agreement with the NFL to continue to carry their channels on U-verse TV and DirecTV Now.”
At the time, AT&T was desperately seeking a way to make DIRECTV Now (name changed later to AT&T TV, and then again to DIRECTV Stream) financially viable. After the company was forced to raise prices to meet the rising cost of acquiring programming, subscribers began fleeing the service in droves. DIRECTV Now, which once had nearly two million subs, fell under one million.
AT&T concluded that it could no longer justify carrying the NFL Network, which has relatively high carriage fees compared to some other channels.
AT&T was also uncertain if it would continue offering the NFL Sunday Ticket with the league considering employing an opt-out clause that would permit it to sell the rights to another company. The NFL ultimately decided not to go with the opt-out, but it was a contentious time between AT&T and the league.
But now three years later, DIRECTV Stream is part of a separate company jointly owned by AT&T and the private equity firm, TPG. (The company also includes DIRECTV’s satellite TV service and U-verse.) And DIRECTV is trying to win favor with the NFL as it jockeys to share the next Sunday Ticket contract. (DIRECTV has said publicly it no longer wants the Ticket as an exclusive. The current pact with the league expires after the 2022 season.)
Consequently, it’s possible that DIRECTV Stream adds the NFL Network in the coming weeks as a good will gesture although carriage could be delayed until the league makes a final decision on the Sunday Ticket contract. That’s not expected until as late as year’s end.
Jamal, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann