Friday, April 20, 2012

MSM: DirecTV cuts price on NFL Sunday Ticket, RedZone to Blame?

According to Bloomberg.com, DirecTV has lowered the price on NFL Sunday Ticket to $199 for the season. (New customers get the first year free). After years of price increases and extra fees, including the "NFL SuperFan package", which tacked on an extra $99 a month to watch the games in HD, DirecTV has reversed course.

DirecTV paid roughly 4 billion dollars (insert pinky in corner of mouth now) for the exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket in 2009. As a long time DirecTV subscriber, the list price, which at times was over $300, could be negotiated if you called and threatened to cancel your Sunday Ticket (this practice has been talked about in satellite forums such as DBSTalk.com for years). With that deal, however, the league and DirecTV reached an agreement so that the league could run its own "RedZone Channel", which consists of going live to games where a score is imminent (It has been hosted by Scott Hanson, while the DirecTV version, which has been around for years, has been hosted by Andrew Siciliano). Although Time Warner customers continue to be left out in the cold when it comes to NFL Network and RedZone channel, Dish Network and Comcast, among others, reached deals to add RedZone to their sports tiers. The price: anywhere from $7 to $12 a month depending on the provider and promotion.

I'll admit as a long-time DirecTV subscriber (from 1999 to May of 2011, only cancelling because I moved to a house that couldn't reach the satellite due to tree growth), the Sunday Ticket was the main reason I always remained loyal. In recent years I had found I wasn't watching the individual games as much, as I was watching the GameMix channel (8 games at once) and the RedZone channel. When I was forced to switch to Dish last year (which I did because of the RedZone option that Time Warner did not have), I noticed little if any difference in my viewing habits, as I still had the national games and the RedZone. The result: at least $200-350 savings on my satellite bill.

I cannot be the only one who has had to (or chosen to) make the switch from DirecTV for whatever reason, and with DTV Sunday Ticket prices sky-rocketing to help pay for the $4 billion deal, the price cut seems to indicate:

1. If you threaten to cancel Sunday Ticket,  DirecTV may not be as willing to work with you on the price of Sunday Ticket
2. DirecTV intends to make more money on their online/mobile package, which is available to non-subscribers (ie, bent over TWC subs) for $299.95.

With the latest DirecTV deal due to expire in 2013, interesting questions emerge:

1. Will a cable giant like Comcast make a play for the package and use their new relationship with NBC to help leverage that?
2. Will DirecTV write a bigger check than $4 billion to keep their NFL Sunday Ticket silver bullet that they have had since 1994?
3. Will the league allow Sunday Ticket/Mobile access to more providers, and if they do, will it finally be the the sun ray to melt the Time Warner Cable iceberg?

It all bears watching, barring the world ending in December of course. Wonder if the Mayans predicted a RedZone channel?

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