AT&T Is Letting Non-Subscribers Stream NFL Sunday Ticket

Peyton Manning, left, a former NFL quarterback and DirecTV pitchman, with ESPN and ABC broadcaster Joe Tessitore, at last February's Super Bowl. Peter Barreras/AP Images for DIRECTV

NFL Sunday Ticket, for more than 25 years a major driver of subscriptions to DirecTV, is being offered by AT&T for streaming by non-subscribers.

The availability is not technically new but has been phased in quietly and not attracted wide attention from customers, investors or press. It applies only for viewers in certain ZIP codes in 29 U.S. markets, mostly corresponding with where NFL teams are based. In the past, a small number of exceptions would be made for university students or fans who could gain access if they could prove that they are unable to receive DirecTV service at their homes.

The broadening out of the service was first reported by Phillip Swann on his blog,

First launched in 1994, Sunday Ticket reaches about 2 million subscribers via DirecTV, offering them a full complement of weekly telecasts. With DirecTV losing subscribers (nearly 3 million in 2019), widening the scope of who can sign up allows AT&T ways of leveraging the service as it nears the end of an eight-year, $12 billion rights package. Ahead of that deal’s expiration, AT&T executives have signaled that the cost of a renewal is something they are still weighing, especially with $153 billion in net debt still on the company’s books.

Sunday Ticket streaming packages start at $293.96 for the basic flight of Sunday games or $399.95 for the games plus NFL RedZone, a popular offering focused on scoring plays during games.

NFL TV deals, which expire after the 2022 season, will be a major preoccupation of the media business in the rest of 2020 and into 2021. Top executives at the companies holding existing rights — NBCUniversal, Disney, ViacomCBS and Fox — have all expressed confidence in retaining them, though costs are likely to escalate. Digital powerhouses like Amazon and Google have shown increasing appetite for major live sports and do not face the same financial constraints as traditional media companies.

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