Satellite

DirecTV Enhances 'Ticket’

8/05/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

New York— DirecTV Inc. unveiled interactive enhancements for its “NFL Sunday Ticket” package here last Wednesday, but it’s not clear how many subscribers will be able to access the features.

Company executives said customers that upgrade to the direct-broadcast satellite provider’s new digital video recorders, which ship in October, will have access to the “SuperFan” interactive-TV features. So will subscribers who already have ITV-enabled receivers, which DirecTV said number in the “millions.”

The satellite company raised the retail price for its out-of-market NFL Sunday Ticket package this season to $279.96. The package gives customers access to every Sunday National Football League game broadcast by CBS and Fox.

$99 PREMIUM

Sunday Ticket subscribers will have to shell out an additional $99 to access the “SuperFan” premium tier for the package, which includes a “Red Zone” highlight channel, the ability to view an entire game in 30 minutes and high-definition NFL feeds.

“These are just the first baby steps of interactivity,” said DirecTV Entertainment president David Hill. The DBS provider will eventually add interactive elements to other sports and entertainment programming, Hill added.

It’s the first time that DirecTV will charge Sunday Ticket subscribers a premium for HDTV games. One other catch: subscribers with HDTV set-tops will not be able to access any of the interactive features this season.

SuperFan also includes two “Game Mix” channels, which will allow subscribers to view eight live NFL games on a single screen. They’re designed to help viewers quickly find the game with the best action.

SuperFan’s “Red Zone Channel” is designed for more passive viewers. Viewers of the channel will hear a voiceover describing the action in the two hottest games being played at any given time.

Subscribers paying for the SuperFan package will also get access to “Short Cuts,” which will run on channels 701-704. DirecTV will condense each NFL game on Fox into 30 minutes or less, eliminating all the time spent covering huddles, commercials and timeouts.

Next year, AFC games aired on CBS will also be available on Short Cuts, Hill said.

2M SUB ESTIMATE

DirecTV doesn’t publicly disclose the number of Sunday Ticket customers that it has on the books, but one source said close to 2 million of DirecTV’s 14.7 million subscribers have the package.

DirecTV officials also wouldn’t project how many customers the company expects will spend an extra $99 for the Super Fan package, but Hill said the content is designed more for hardcore football fans than the mass market.

“Obviously we hope because of what we’ve invested in the [research and development] that it will become a huge take-up,” Hill said. “But this really, when you analyze it, it’s not something for a broad audience.”

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