The first Sunday of the 2022 NFL season is today and the prospect of watching multiple live football games on TV after last year’s heart-pounding playoffs and Super Bowl has many excited fans searching for the best viewing options.

As has been the case since 1994 when it launched, the NFL Sunday Ticket remains the only way to watch all out-of-market Sunday afternoon games. However, there has been considerable confusion regarding the Ticket over the last few years due to some rule changes, and speculation that DIRECTV will lose its exclusive rights to offer it.

So the TV Answer Man has compiled this up-to-the-minute guide to everything you need to know to subscribe to the NFL Sunday Ticket.

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1. Does Any Pay TV Provider Besides DIRECTV Offer the Sunday Ticket?
No, since the Sunday Ticket’s first year in 1994, DIRECTV has had the exclusive rights from the NFL to sell the package. Most recently, the satcaster paid $12 billion in 2014 to carry the Ticket exclusively for eight years.

2. So I Can’t Get the Ticket From My Cable TV Provider?
That’s right. Your cable TV service might carry the Red Zone Channel, but not the Ticket. (The Red Zone Channel offers live look-ins at games when one team crosses its opponent’s 20-yard-line. You can also subscribe directly to the Red Zone channel at the NFL streaming app, but it’s only available on smart phones.)

3. Does DIRECTV Stream Have the Ticket?
No. Only DIRECTV’s satellite service has the Ticket, not DIRECTV Stream, its sister streaming service. To find out why, click here.

4. What Is the Cost of the Sunday Ticket?
The Ticket’s base plan is $293.94 and that includes all out-of-market Sunday afternoon games and a streaming option. The Max plan, which costs $395.94, also includes the Red Zone Channel, a fantasy stats channel, and the streaming option.

5. Doesn’t DIRECTV Offer the Ticket For Free?
DIRECTV earlier this year offered the Ticket for free in e-mails to select existing subscribers. It’s unclear how many existing subscribers got the benefit nor why they did but others didn’t. But if you didn’t get the freebie e-mail, you have to pay.

In addition, DIRECTV includes the Ticket for free to new customers who order the satcaster’s Choice (or above) plan, which now start at $69.99 a month. However, note that you must sign a two-year agreement to subscribe, and year two programming package prices nearly double. (And DIRECTV may not be able to offer the Ticket in year two. More on that later.)

6. Isn’t There a Way to Get the Ticket Without DIRECTV?
Yes. DIRECTV’s streaming edition of the Sunday Ticket is available to university students, people who were enrolled in a college within the last 18 months, people who can prove they can’t get DIRECTV at their residences, and people who “live in select areas within various metropolitan cities.”

That last qualifier — people who live in select areas within various metropolitan cities — has been the topic of some discussion in the last few years. A DIRECTV spokesman told the TV Answer Man in 2020 that the “various metropolitan cities” included 29 different markets where people were eligible for the streaming Sunday Ticket (cost is the same as the satellite version) even if they can get DIRECTV at their residences. That could mean that you could get the Ticket without a DIRECTV subscription, and without being a university student or living in a residence where you can’t get DIRECTV.

However, the spokesman would not elaborate on exactly who in those 29 markets were eligible. After we reported the statement, several non-DIRECTV subscribers sent us e-mails saying they were able to subscribe while many more said they were deemed ineligible.

The bottom line is that it’s still uncertain whether you would be eligible in the 29 markets. The only sure way to determine that is to try the Sunday Ticket eligibility checker here.  You can see the 29 markets here.

See video below: Can You Really Get the NFL Sunday Ticket Without DIRECTV?

7. Do College Students Get a Discount On the Ticket?
Yes. Currently enrolled college students can get the Max edition of the Ticket for roughly $300 off while anyone who was enrolled in college within the last 18 months can also get a discount, albeit a much smaller one. Also note that college students do not need a dish, or to prove they can’t get DIRECTV at their residence. They just need a valid college e-mail and college name.

8. If I’m Eligible, Which Streaming Devices Can I Use?
The Sunday Ticket app is available on numerous streaming devices including Roku and Fire TV. You can see a complete list here. 

9. Is the Sunday Ticket Stream Any Good?
It’s streaming, folks. The Internet can be a cruel mistress and the Sunday Ticket has succumbed to her fickleness more than once. However, user reports suggests that picture reliability has improved in the last few years.

10. Will the Sunday Ticket Be Available In 4K?
No. The Sunday Ticket games have never been available in 4K, only high-def. This is not DIRECTV’s fault, however. The satcaster can only air a live sporting event in 4K if it’s offered in that format by the network that is broadcasting it. And to date, neither Fox nor CBS have ever produced a single NFL Sunday afternoon game in 4K. (The Sunday Ticket package only includes out-of-market Sunday afternoon games broadcast by CBS and Fox.)

11. If I Have DIRECTV, Will There Be a Free Preview Today?
Yes. There is a free satellite preview today, and a seven-day free trial for the streaming edition of the Sunday Ticket. (The free trial for the streaming plan requires you to first be deemed eligible to subscribe under the aforementioned rules.) The satellite free preview will be in DIRECTV’s channel 700s.

12. If I Can’t Subscribe, Is There a Way to Watch the Ticket In Bars?
Yes. DIRECTV has a Sports Bar Finder app that allows you to find every bar in your area that will show the Sunday Ticket. See more about the Bar Finder here.

See a demonstration of the Bar Finder below:

13. Why Doesn’t DIRECTV Offer a Single Team Option?
DIRECTV pays $1.5 billion a year to the league for the exclusive rights to the Sunday Ticket. To make that investment worthwhile, the telco needs a lot of revenue coming back in Ticket subscriptions.

If DIRECTV agreed to offer a single team package, more people who now don’t subscribe would undoubtedly sign up. But the problem is that many people who now pay $300 to $400 for the entire package would undoubtedly downgrade to a sub-$200 single team option, which would mean less revenue overall for DIRECTV.

Unlike the MLB and NBA, the NFL currently has only one client for its package of out-of-market games. And it’s DIRECTV which pays a small fortune for the honor. Consequently, under this scenario, a single team feature simply doesn’t work.

14. How Long Will DIRECTV Have the Sunday Ticket?
The satcaster’s contract with the league is set to expire after the 2022 season. Multiple news reports have said Amazon, Apple and ESPN are among the companies interested in the next contract with Apple the front runner. DIRECTV has said it doesn’t plan to seek renewal of its exclusive agreement, but it could share the Ticket with whatever streaming company lands the next deal. The satcaster recently signed an agreement with Amazon to provide its exclusive Thursday Night Football games to bars and restaurants, and that deal could be a template for the next Ticket contract.

15. When Will the NFL Decide the Next Ticket Contract?
That’s the big question with several conflicting answers. But league commish Roger Goodell says it will come in the fall. Since the fall ends on December 20, it could be a few months before we know.

More questions? Send an e-mail directly to the TV Answer Man with the form below:

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— Phillip Swann