New York -- The National Football League continues to score
with its out-of-market package, but it still has no plans to share its success with cable.
The league reported last week that its "NFL Sunday
Ticket" subscription package will draw 770,000 customers -- an all-time record.
It's unclear how may of those subscribers are DirecTv
Inc. customers and how many are C-band-dish owners, but the numbers are up from last
year's 550,000-subscriber mark, according to Tola Murphy-Baran, vice president of
marketing and sales for NFL Enterprises.
She added that the dish-exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket remains
one of the biggest drivers of dish sales.
"The increase in subscriptions reflects the power of
NFL Sunday Ticket as a supplement to the football fan's viewing habits,"
Murphy-Baran said. "NFL Sunday Ticket helps displaced fans who are away from their
hometowns to re-establish links with their teams, regardless of where they are."
DirecTv would not reveal how many of its more than 4
million subscribers are purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket, and it declined to comment on the
numbers. The DBS service has always maintained, however, that the NFL package is one of
its most popular subscription and pay-per-view draws.
Murphy-Baran attributed much of the league's success
to DirecTv's marketing acumen. The company launched a major multimedia campaign in
August featuring several of the NFL's top players, including Brett Farve, Troy
Aikman, John Elway and Jerry Rice.
"The lion's share of subscriptions has been
driven by DirecTv and its aggressive marketing efforts," Murphy-Baran said.
The league has also made the package available to
international football fans: NFL Sunday Ticket is distributed in Canada, the Bahamas,
Central America, South America and Japan.
But the league has yet to make the package available to
cable operators. Murphy-Baran said the NFL is satisfied with its current distribution
efforts, and it has no plans to offer the package to operators.
"From a business point of view, we don't think
[that cable carriage] is a good idea at this point," she said.
The NFL is reluctant to put more games on TV in fear of
cannibalizing stadium attendance.
She wouldn't rule out, however, a possible look at
cable when the league's current deal with DirecTv runs out in 2000. "Anything
could happen," she said.
In other DirecTv sports news, the service announced that it
will offer a free preview of its "NHL Center Ice" National Hockey League
out-of-market package. All commercial and residential subscribers will be able to access
the package from Oct. 9 to 15.
The package -- which offers 30 NHL games every week of the
season, as well as select first- and second-round Stanley Cup playoff games -- retails at
a suggested price of $139.