DirecTV Upgrades Its ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’

Digital Enhancements Underline Basic Price Hike
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DirecTV hopes several enhancements to its “NFL Sunday Ticket” digital app will help to continue the subscriber momentum for the out-of-market game package.

The satellite distributor, currently in year three of a four-year, $4 billion deal with the National Football League for exclusive Sunday Ticket rights that ends with the 2014 season, said last year it garnered a record number of subscribers to the package. Sunday Ticket affords subscribers access to all out-of-market regular-season Sunday afternoon NFL games via set-top box, online and tablet devices, although DirecTV would not reveal specific subscriber numbers.

Industry observers place Sunday Ticket subscribers at around 2.5 million.

PRICE HIKE IN BASIC

DirecTV is holding the price to $299.95 for its robust Sunday Ticket Max package — which includes mobile and online access to NFL games, along with the NFL Red Zone channel — but will increase its basic package, featuring high-definition games and a “Game Mix” mosaic channel to $225, up from last year’s 199.95.

DirecTV vice president of marketing Alex Kaplan said the price change shouldn’t affect buys for the basic package, which remains a very popular option for subscribers. “For people that just want to watch football on their television, which is a big number of our subscribers — some people don’t care to watch the games on their iPads — this package is for them,” he said.

Despite having offered Sunday Ticket since 1994, Kaplan said he believes the satellite service can improve on last year’s record numbers. “We think there continues to be an immense interest in the NFL and viewership is only growing. Undoubtedly it’s a mature product, but we continue to aggressively market it and we continue to see strong interest in the package.”

DirecTV has enhanced its highlight capabilities as part of its NFL Sunday Ticket App, providing a quicker turnaround for online and mobile users. Last year highlights could take several hours to appear after the initial play, but this year users will be able to access highlights almost instantly after it happens.

“You’ll be able to see big plays from every game delivered within seconds of them happening,” Kaplan said. “When Eli Manning throws a touchdown pass to Victor Cruz, you’ll see that highlighted and pop up on the screen within 10 seconds.”

DirecTV also is sweetening the service’s fantasy football capabilities. NFL.com fantasy players will be able to log in through NFL Sunday Ticket and follow the progress of their teams on the screen while interacting with the live games. “Every year our goal is to tweak and enhance what is already a great product that’s a must-have for avid football fans,” Kaplan said.

On the marketing side, DirecTV earlier this month released an online promotional music video featuring the quarterbacking Manning brothers — Eli of the New York Giants and Peyton of the Denver Broncos — touting NFL Sunday Ticket’s mobile offering (“Football on your phone”).

The video has already garnered more than 6.8 million YouTube views. The video was a prelude to the company’s on-air commercial campaign, “The World’s Most Powerful Fan,” which shows how the package can morph fans into super fans.

“We couldn’t have been happier with the results of the [Mannings] video,” Kaplan said. “We knew it was going to be successful, but it’s exceeded our expectations in terms of how big it would become.”

NO UPDATE ON FUTURE

As for the future of NFL Sunday Ticket, Kaplan said the company continues to talk to the league about the package, but would not offer specifics. Published reports recently indicated that Internet giant Google was interested in becoming the next holder of Sunday Ticket rights, which currently cost DirecTV $1 billion per year.

“We have a great relationship with the NFL and there’s a constant dialogue,” Kaplan said. “We’re very happy with Sunday Ticket and that relationship … we’ll see where it goes.”

TAKEAWAY

DirecTV hopes to continue NFL Sunday Ticket’s drive into more consumer homes by adding interactive features to its premium package.

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