DirecTV has been an AT&T (T 3.65%) subsidiary for just a couple of weeks, but it's already mixing things up with the leading satellite television provider's most distinctive asset. DirecTV announced on Monday that it will expand streaming access of its NFL Sunday Ticket package for the upcoming football season.
Fans without access to DirecTV -- whether it's because they live in an apartment or condo that doesn't offer receiver installation or there is some form of signal obstruction -- can now purchase NFL Sunday Ticket as a stand-alone streaming option.
It's not cheap. The four-month season of NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV starts at $199 -- or $49.99 a month -- for streaming access on mobile devices. If you want to watch games on your TV through video game consoles or Roku boxes, the price bumps up to $64.99 a month. Hardcore fans can pay $89.99 a month for access across all devices, also receiving access to Red Zone Channel and DirecTV Fantasy Zone.
Yes, that's a lot of money, but in a brilliant move, AT&T is offering access to any four-year college student for just $24.99 a month. That will likely be a big driver for out-of-town college students who want to keep tabs on their hometown teams. It's also a great way to introduce DirecTV to eventual college graduates.
The NFL Sunday Ticket remains the only legal service offering access to all out-of-market NFL games. DirecTV is the exclusive provider, and it comes at a meaty price. DirecTV renewed the agreement with the pro football league late last year, agreeing to pay $1.5 billion a season (up from $1 billion in the previous contract). It's DirecTV's most distinctive programming feature, and it has likely made it to the top satellite television provider despite charging more for its service than most of the competition.
The NFL is a pretty big deal, and even as it experiments with new offerings -- it recently sold streaming rights for a single game for this upcoming season -- working with what is now AT&T's DirecTV on a package that has served both the league and the satellite television provider well for two decades matters. The new normal is streaming. Cord cutters are growing in number, much to the dismay of the pay TV industry.
This is the right move for DirecTV, even if initially limiting it just to folks who don't have access to the traditional DirecTV service may prove fleeting. Smaller rivals are starting to offer stand-alone streaming services to all, and this is AT&T's new subsidiary taking a big step in that direction. It's breaking out of the huddle, and the next play is a deep pass into the end zone.