By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, I just subscribed to the NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube. I had the Ticket on DIRECTV so my question is what is different? Anything? Is YouTube basically doing the same thing as DIRECTV? Or is the Sunday Ticket going to be a lot different with Google running it? — Dave, Los Angeles.
Dave, with the first Sunday of the NFL 2023 regular season less than a month away, I am getting more questions regarding how the NFL Sunday Ticket will operate, particularly compared to how did when DIRECTV ran it. Many of the questions are coming from fans who subscribed to the package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games when it was on DIRECTV. So let’s take a look at what YouTube’s Sunday Ticket will have that DIRECTV didn’t and vice versa.

Sunday Ticket:
What YouTube Has That DIRECTV Didn’t

No dish or pay TV subscription required.
While DIRECTV did offer a standalone streaming edition of the Sunday Ticket, it was only available to university students, people who could prove they couldn’t get a dish at their residences, and a relatively small number of consumers in select zip codes. For the first time, anyone who has a decent Internet plan can watch the NFL Sunday Ticket. And if you desire, you don’t have to subscribe to YouTube TV’s $72.99 a month live streaming package to do it. (Although YouTube TV subs can get a $50 discount until September 19. The YouTube TV base Ticket plan is now $299.) You can get the Ticket as a standalone service from YouTube Primetime Channels now for $399. (Price goes to $449 after September 19.)

Click Amazon: See Today’s 1-Day-Only Discounts!

No two-year contract.
DIRECTV’s satellite Ticket required new customers to sign a two-year programming agreement. But even if you get the Ticket via YouTube TV, there’s no contract with punitive financial penalties if you cancel service before the term is over. If you don’t like YouTube TV, you can cancel at any time, although you can’t watch the Ticket on YouTube TV without the service’s base plan. If you subscribe via YouTube Primetime Channels, there’s no contract or any other requirement other than paying for your Ticket subscription.

You can order the NFL RedZone channel separately. 
DIRECTV had its own version of the RedZone channel, hosted by Andrew Siciliano. However, you had to subscribe to the more expensive Sunday Ticket Max plan to get the RedZone with your Ticket games. The Siciliano RedZone is history now, shuttered when DIRECTV lost the Ticket rights to Google. But the NFL RedZone channel, which has been available on cable, Dish and some live streaming services, remains and it’s available as part of YouTube’s Ticket bundle or separately on YouTube TV’s 15-channel Sports Plus $10.99 a month add-on plan. It’s slightly more expensive if you order it with Sports Plus, compared to the Ticket bundle price. But if you don’t want the Ticket, you can still get the RedZone with YouTube TV. You couldn’t do that on DIRECTV.

Google executives earlier this year hinted that the company would offer more unique Ticket features as we got closer to the season.

“Subscribers will see features from YouTube TV — like the ability to watch key plays — added to the main YouTube app,” YouTube CEO Neal Mohan said in March. “And creators will connect with sports fans through coverage and commentary. Sunday Ticket will also come with ways to engage with other fans, including comments, chats, and polls.”

YouTube has introduced the mutl-view feature which can display up to four games on one screen at the same time, although it can’t be customized yet. (DIRECTV also offered a multi-screen feature.) But it’s unclear how the other features, such as creator engagements, will be offered or whether YouTube has any other tricks up its sleeve.

Sunday Ticket
What DIRECTV Had That YouTube Won’t

Free trials
DIRECTV allowed all subscribers to watch the first week of the NFL Sunday Ticket for free. YouTube has not said it will offer the first week free, or offered a free trial as DIRECTV’s standalone streaming service did. With 25 days left before the first Sunday, the company could still announce that the first week will be free. But it would appear that YouTube will require all fans to subscribe with no sneak peeks.
Free plans for new subscribers.
DIRECTV included the Sunday Ticket for free when a new subscriber signed a two-year agreement. The satcaster also gifted some existing subscribers with a free Sunday Ticket package as a loyalty reward. But there are no freebies with the YouTube Ticket. Pay or else.
Monthly billing
DIRECTV allowed subscribers to pay for the Ticket’s steep price by the month. YouTube and YouTube TV do not. Sunday Ticket subscribers must now pay the full price up front — and there are no refunds if you get sticker shock. UPDATE, August 16: YouTube has just added a monthly payment plan.

University student discounts
DIRECTV offered a major discount for college students. But as of now, Google, the owner of the two YouTube services, says: “We don’t currently offer student pricing for NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube or YouTube TV.”
Update: YouTube revealed on August 16 that it will soon add a university plan.

Fantasy Zone Channel
DIRECTV had a separate channel dedicated to fans who play on fantasy football teams with up-to-date reports on stats and other related information. YouTube is promising to incorporate fantasy stats with its main Ticket screens, but there won'[t be a separate channel.

The common theme on all differences between the companies is that DIRECTV saw the Ticket as a retention tool while Google is looking to generate revenue with it, particularly since it agreed to pay $1 billion more per year for the rights than DIRECTV did. Google is going for every paid subscription it can get, although it’s still possible that we’ll see a few changes between now and September 10.

Dave, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.

Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann