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The Future For NFL Sunday Ticket Depends On Pricing, Creativity and Reliability

“How do you assure me that the experience they’re going to have with the product is superior to what they had been seeing?”

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If DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket were a professional football team, one could argue that it’s off to a losing start this season.

The NFL is entering Week 5 having played less than a month of regular-season football. Out of the first four weeks of action, at least three saw fans vent their frustrations about DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package. From error pages to inconsistent streaming to quality issues, Sunday Ticket has seen its fair share of online criticism in what could be its last season as a DirecTV exclusive.

It’s widely believed that after the 2022 season, DirecTV will cede control of Sunday Ticket, which will face intense competition from streaming providers. Apple is widely believed to be the future home, but Amazon, Disney and Google are all believed to be vying for rights as well.

As the streaming giants face off against one another, it’s likely that they’ll have to be creative in their pitch to the NFL. In an NFL Sunday Ticket survey of 2,562 fans conducted by The Streamable, which covers streaming services, increased accessibility isn’t the only thing that viewers want to see from a new provider.

According to the survey, only 26% of fans are willing to pay up to Sunday Ticket’s current $300 base price. If that price were in the $150-to-$200 range, the survey says that it could result in an increase in subscribers. It also states that 50% of fans are willing to pay $150, while 43% are willing to pay $200. 

“If [the Sunday Ticket provider] is able to drop the price to something lower, something more in line with other out-of-market packages, like $150 to $200, you can see somewhere up to a 2x increase in the number of people who might sign up for this service,” Jason Gurwin, co-founder of The Streamable, said in an interview. 

The price any company will pay for the rights to Sunday Ticket is also a point of discussion. Amazon’s 11-year streaming deal for the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package will cost the tech company $1 billion per season. Apple’s 10-year contract with Major League Soccer for rights to all regular season and League Cup matches cost it $2.5 billion total. The iPhone creator is also spending $85 million annually over the next seven years to stream MLB’s Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+. 

According to Gurwin, the competition for the package will be heavily dictated by the creativity of the streaming giants. DirecTV’s history with the package has been hindered by only being accessible to customers with satellite dishes. 

If a company wants to win Sunday Ticket rights going forward, Gurwin believes that it’ll have to show flexibility in the market.

And with the bidders likely coming to the NFL with similar offers in the billions, they’ll have to assure the league that they can offer more than just cash given Sunday Ticket’s dwindling reputation, said Chris Lencheski, CEO of Phoenicia Sport, a private equity consultancy specializing in media, sports and entertainment.

“How do you assure me that the experience they’re going to have with the product is superior to what they had been seeing?” Lencheski said. “Low bar, so that shouldn’t be hard, but also superior in the sense of a digital product that they compared to many other players out there in the space.”

Lowering the Sunday Ticket price for fans isn’t the only way to lure new consumers, Lenchenski argued. It could come down to a viewer consuming games in ways that DirectTV couldn’t offer under its Sunday Ticket ownership. 

Lencheski envisions alternate broadcast strategies akin to ESPN’s ManningCast program or the Worldwide Leader’s “Kayrod” Sunday Night Baseball edition with Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay. The possibilities provide streaming companies an endless number of ways to entice Sunday Ticket followers.

“Whomever wins this product comes at it from the customer experience,” Lencheski added.

Apple’s willingness to experiment with its sports services thus far makes it a heavy favorite to win the Sunday Ticket bid, according to Gurwin. MLS matches are not only available for free through the Apple TV app, but also for those who have Apple TV+ subscriptions and even traditional linear TV viewers. And, when the Yankees’ Aaron Judge faced off against the Red Sox on Friday, September 23rd, to see if he’d match Roger Maris’ homerun record, fans (myself included) were able to stream on Apple TV for free.

“It seems like their team is willing to try different options in order to see what works best for the consumer,” Gurwin said. 

Another popular way for Apple to strengthen its chances at securing Sunday Ticket is through bundles. Both Gurwin and Nick Rizzo, research director at Vertical Scope, believe that Apple’s diverse product offerings can be incorporated into deals with Sunday Ticket. 

Gurwin envisions a scenario where Apple offers a free year of Apple TV+ to get people to sign up for Sunday Ticket. Rizzo could see the tech giant offering free Airpods or Apple Music gift cards. 

To Rizzo, these kinds of hypothetical incentives are what Apple needs to offer if it wants to secure the Sunday Ticket rights. He recently conducted a preliminary survey asking participants to rank the four companies — Apple, Amazon, Disney and Google — that they are most excited to join if they offered Sunday Ticket. 

The company that participants were least excited to join? Apple. 

With streaming numbers well behind its competitors, Rizzo thinks that bundles and enticing offers will make customers more accepting of Apple being another streaming service in their monthly subscriptions. 

“It’s kind of clear that people don’t want to add that other service,” Rizzo said. “But all signs are pointing in the direction that Apple TV’s likely to win [Sunday Ticket]. So you can see why from Apple’s perspective why they’d want to do that, because it’s going to force the hand of more fans to say, ‘Okay, well, I guess I’ll sign up.’” 

“If they provide some incentives to get people to sign up and join Apple TV,  it’s going to start giving them exposure and get more people on their platform.”

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Andrew Fillipponi: Peter Burns Made ‘Innocuous Joke’ To Ben Watson

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

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The on-air spat between SEC Network host Peter Burns and analyst Ben Watson continues to be bandied about in sports media circles, with 93.7 The Fan hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller discussing the topic Tuesday.

“I’m on Team Burns,” Fillipponi said.

“Forget who’s team you’re on,” Chris Mueller said. “I think you’ve do have to keep the wives and children out of this.”

“What are you talking about, keep the wives and out of it?!,” Fillipponi asked.

“Do we believe this is work or shoot here?,” Mueller wondered.

“Oh, I think this is real,” Fillpponi added, which Mueller agreed.

“Do you think a close fist from Ben Watson hit Peter Burns?,” Mueller asked.

“No, I think he picked him up by the lapels,” Fillipponi said.

When the subject of Watson’s religion was brought up, Fillipponi then pointed out the absurdity of the situation.

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

“I think he might have a shorter fuse and not taking in humor that Peter Burns was giving out,” Mueller said.

“It was an innocuous joke!,” Fillipponi stated. “It wasn’t a joke! Why is it in bad taste?”

Mueller then added the idea of Watson’s wife texting Burns insinuates there’s an inappropriate relationship.

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Craig Carton: Booger McFarland’s Zach Wilson Analysis ‘An Embarrasment’

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Craig Carton

ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland raised eyebrows on Monday Night Countdown this week by saying New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has never been held accountable for his actions because he was a “young man who grew up with a lot of money”. WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton called out McFarland’s comments Tuesday as outlandish.

“It was an embarrasment,” Carton said. “Someone should ask Booger McFarland if his kids — who grew up with amazing wealth — have accountability in their lives or if having a little bit of money in your pocket immediately discounts the possibility to have accountability. He’s an idiot and we learned that last night.”

“It’s funny that Steve Young was on the other side of it,” Evan Roberts noted. “Because a long time ago, Steve Young criticized Chris Simms because he’s the son of a famous quarterback.”

“You don’t have to invent reasons for why Zach Wilson isn’t playing well,” added Carton. “Just watch his tape. He’s not playing well. Maybe he’s just not good!”

Carton later said NFL reporters “will try to make a name for themselves by putting out a story” about quarterbacks who take responsibility for their teams failures, while Wilson wouldn’t accept the blame.

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Greg Hill: Ben Watson, Peter Burns Drama Was A Bit

“Be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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Peter Burns and Ben Watson shared an awkward exchange during the halftime show of an SEC Network football game over the weekend, and many are still debating whether Watson walking off the set was serious or not. Count part of the cast of The Greg Hill Show on WEEI as doubters.

“That was a a bit,” Courtney Cox said. “That was absolutely a bit.”

“Yeah, unlike the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing, I assume that was a bit,” Hill said. “I can’t believe that Ben Watson is really angry about that.”

“I dunno, man. There’s been a lot of speculation that it isn’t,” Jermaine Wiggins added. “There are people who are very sensitive about you clowning on them or joking with them. Especially with joking about their wife. Some people can’t handle jokes like that.”

After a back-and-forth with Cox about the legitimacy of the joke, Wiggins concluded by saying for some folks family is off limits.

“I’ve learned something in my 47 years on this Earth: be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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