Having already shattered its all-time subscriber record,
the National Football League's out-of-market pay-per-view package will get a further boost
from DirecTV Inc., which will offer the service free-of-charge to new residential
customers throughout the rest of the season.
The league -- in its fifth year of offering "NFL
Sunday Ticket" to DirecTV's direct-broadcast satellite subscribers and to C-band dish
owners -- is reporting more than 850,000 subscribers for its 221-game package, well above
last year's 770,000-subscriber take, although the NFL doesn't break out exact DirecTV
"We're going strong, and we're not done yet," NFL
Enterprises vice president Tola Murphy-Baran said. "We always have a lot of people
come aboard during the last half of the season."
Helping to spur the late-season growth will be DirecTV's
free-package offer to new subscribers. Consumers purchasing DirecTV dishes and subscribing
to the company's "Total Choice" programming package will receive the last six
weeks of the NFL season free.
"NFL Sunday Ticket is the most popular sports package
on DirecTV, and it is fast becoming a standard with NFL armchair quarterbacks around the
country," DirecTV senior vice president of marketing Susan Collins said in a prepared
statement. "As we enter the crucial holiday season, we're confident that this offer
will go far in bolstering our record-breaking growth for 1999."
Murphy-Baran said the DirecTV offer has always been a great
acquisition tool for both the DBS provider and the league. "It's always driven a lot
of traffic, and we always get a surprisingly high number of renewals from those who
initially get the package free," she said.
Unlike the National Basketball Association and National
Hockey League out-of-market packages, which are distributed via digital cable, NFL Sunday
Ticket will remain exclusive to DirecTV through 2002.