TV Answer Man, I have been a DIRECTV subscriber for more than a decade, but after the Sunday Ticket leaves, I think I’m done unless they do something to change my mind. How can they survive without the Sunday Ticket? What can you see them doing to keep people subscribing? — Todd, Tulsa.
Todd, this Sunday will be the last time that DIRECTV will have the exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket, the package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games it has carried for 28 years. Google last month secured the rights to the next Sunday Ticket contract, and it will offer the plan on YouTube TV and YouTube Channels starting with the 2023 season.
While many fans seem to think that most DIRECTV customers get the Sunday Ticket, the number of Ticket subscribers has been in the 10-15 percent range for years. The Ticket’s steep price ($293 for the basic plan; $395 for the Max package) plus the fact that not everyone is a football fan has kept subscriber totals lower than you might think.
But that said, DIRECTV cannot afford to lose even 10 percent of its audience considering that it has lost 12 million subscribers since 2015 when AT&T purchased it. Cable and satellite operators are struggling to survive in a cord-cutting world and DIRECTV and Dish are most vulnerable because neither has a national Internet service it can bundle with video.
So what can DIRECTV do to soften the blow of the Ticket’s loss?
1. Add the NFL RedZone Channel.
DIRECTV has included its own version of the RedZone Channel in the Ticket’s Max package. But that is expected to shutter after Sunday. The satellite TV service should announce a deal to add the NFL’s RedZone Channel as soon as possible to appease upset Ticket subscribers. Some fans think the RedZone Channel, which could be included in a base DIRECTV programming package, is just as good as the Ticket. Although the RedZone Channel won’t be in operation again until the 2023 season, DIRECTV needs to let its subscribers know it will be in their lineups when the NFL regular season resumes.
2. Add the NFL Network and RedZone to DIRECTV Stream
While DIRECTV Stream, the streaming sister to the satellite unit, has not carried the Sunday Ticket, it could add subscribers in 2023 if it carries the RedZone and NFL Network. And DIRECTV, as a company which includes Stream, needs every sub it can get. See this article for more details.
3. Strike a Subleasing Deal With Google For the Ticket
The NFL has retained the commercial rights to the Ticket as part of the Google contract. That means DIRECTV could still keep selling the Ticket to bars and restaurants with the right bid. But DIRECTV should also try to persuade Google to allow it to sell the Ticket in rural areas where the Internet is either nonexistent or unreliable. This might be a long shot but Google could be interested to offset a portion of the cost ($2.2 billion a year) of acquiring the Ticket’s rights.
If I was DIRECTV, I would also consider making this Sunday’s Ticket free to all subscribers as a good will gesture, although its contract with the league might prevent that. I would also consider gifting the remainder of the NBA League Pass and NHL Center Ice packages to paying Ticket customers.
Those are my ideas. What would you do to keep the Ticket’s subscribers from leaving? You can enter your suggestions below in the Comments section.
Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann