The NFL, Google TV, and DirecTV’s Death Grip on the Sunday Ticket


If you’ve spent any time with me in person or paying attention to my tweetstream at all (especially on Sundays), you know about my love affair with football, the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens specifically.

I’ve gone nearly 11 years and have been at or watched every Ravens game in that time. I used to watch these games at my home in Baltimore when I was in-market, but then I moved to DC. Oddly (though I do understand the NFL marketing rules), being 45 minutes away put me “out of market” and into Redskins country. Acknowledged.

It began my weekly Sunday tradition of going to local sports bars to watch the game every Sunday. When I was in Virginia, that was the very awesome Crystal City Sports Pub (ask for John, tell him I sent you and order a cup of coffee… watch for his reaction :-p). When I moved back to Maryland, I went to one of several on Sundays.

Now that I’m in Austin, I’m fortunate to find The Tavern which serves as the Ravens Nest in Austin. 50 or so fans, most of whom have roots in Baltimore, show up every week to cheer on our “Death on Wings”.

But here’s the problem. I have Time Warner Cable. I can’t get non-nationally televised games at home. The only way I could would be to switch to DirecTV and pay several hundred dollars for the NFL Sunday Ticket. This is a problem for someone who doesn’t watch much TV anyway, and the TV shows I do watch, I catch on Hulu or Sure, I enjoy ESPN SportsCenter when I need to have some noise on in the background so I can get work done, but otherwise, the TV is rarely on.

I’ve got Netflix DVDs and can stream many shows and movies instantly on Netflix to my XBOX 360. With my (free for me) 40″ HDTV, I can stream games, or if I chose, NHL GameCenter games from my laptop direct to my television. I can do the same with NBA Leaguepass (though I won’t because I hate the NBA).

The NFL really offers no option to U.S. customers except via NBC’s live streaming of Sunday Night Football. (Though they did offer Preseason streaming games online – see the picture above).

There is a lot of money tied up in contracts for the transmission and coverage of NFL games. I realize it. But there needs to be a change. Consumers would be thrilled to subscribe to an service that would allow them to access their favorite sport online. It could be setup in a variety of ways. The NFL could charge a flat fee of $160 for access to a single team feed with a higher-priced “all access pass” – perhaps $300. They could also charge for a pay-per-view format of $10/game where, if I’m compelled by the Colts-Patriots game, I could purchase a single game pass.

The money will continue to be with DirecTV and I’m not suggesting that their contract should be killed in favor of an all-streaming model. No, in fact, the real money for the NFL Sunday Ticket comes from bars that are paying a premium package to offer all the NFL-licensed content on 50+ TVs. That money will still be there. You could easily restrict distribution and force bars to buy from DirecTV. Money in the bank.

But for consumers, especially those who are fans of teams outside of their market, giving them the opportunity to invest in the NFL, expand distribution, embrace the technology available in 2010, having a streaming option would be a huge WIN.

In fact, I’m willing to bet on a net 10% increase in viewership/subscribers based on this model. At least.

Google TV was just announced the other day. We don’t know much about it yet, but we do know that networks are going to have their own portals. This seems like a great possible partnership for the NFL and Google!

The only question that remains, then, is if the NFL has enough balls to make the big move? I think they need to, lest piracy and viewership decline.

Am I crazy?

Photo by Joel Price

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, A Sr. Web Engineer at 10up, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

6 thoughts on “The NFL, Google TV, and DirecTV’s Death Grip on the Sunday Ticket

  1. Agreed 100% Aaron. Being a Bucs fan in California and now Texas the only way I can watch a game is to goto a sports bar but even then I probably won’t see it since there seems to be absolutely NO Bucs fans alive… I would gladly pay for a per week or season pass to get my Bucs games at home, or my computer, or even my phone. It seems as though that mainstream broadcasting doesn’t quite understand the power of the streaming model yet. I know people who actively watch games live on ONLY because they have to, me being one of them. Fact is, I would gladly pay a reasonable price to be able to see my game where it is convenient for me. Id still even goto the sports bar to watch the Ravens whoop the Steelers for the atmosphere, but Id also have an earbud in my ear and my game on my phone. That is easy money that they are missing out on.

  2. Aaron –

    This is the first year since I moved to DC that I haven’t been able to watch Steelers games on TV. (If they play a different time than Baltimore, I would see them on Baltimore stations – I happen to live in the zone that gets both DC and Bmore stations). I have had to listen to two games on NFL Audio pass. Not terrible, but definitely not the same. I refuse to get the ticket because 1) like you I hardly watch TV and 2) I really like my FIOS.

    I think there are more ways the NFL could make money on the ticket. They can’t be making their bread and butter from individual consumers. So, that said, I think you are right that there would be an increase. I know if I could subscribe to the entire Steelers football season, I would do that. And I am sure there are others who would as well.

    I just wonder how bars would do if people could watch at home. Yesterday, I watched the Steelers Ravens game from a Bar in Baltimore. There were about 30 people in there. Not many. And quire frankly, they had a 32 in TV on the wall….but I have a 50 in at home. I would have rather been at home watching. But for the sake of being social, and being the only Steelers fan in a Ravens Roost bar, I sucked it up…

    1. But for the sake of being social, and being the only Steelers fan in a Ravens Roost bar, I sucked it up…

      Yeah… we totally needed that… :-p

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