Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sunday Ticket Ripoff


Last season, while I was in the midst of my NFL Road Trip, I read a number of articles describing how attending NFL games was generally an unenjoyable experience. According to these writers, it was much better to stay at home and watch all the games on Sunday Ticket, the package provided by DirectTV, instead of enduring the travails of traffic, ticket prices, and drunken fans. This season I decided to test that theory.

Although the package is generally only available to those with DirectTV, some NYC residents are eligible, as I found out to my initial glee. There are two packages: the basic at $199 and Max at $329. I purchased the basic option with the expectation that I would be able to see every game outside of those played on Thursday, Monday and Sunday nights. Not even close. Of course, since I live in NYC, Jets and Giants games are not available on either package, but that's no biggie as both teams sucked. However, a problem arose when the local Fox or CBS affiliate broadcast a game without either of those two teams, which usually happens during the late game window. In that case, Sunday Ticket will not carry the game. For example, when Denver visited New England a few weeks ago, I was left with a game featuring Oakland. In Week 17, both late games with playoff implications (Detroit at Green Bay and Carolina at Atlanta) were broadcast locally so those with Sunday Ticket got to watch teams playing out the string or resting starters for the playoffs.

That is not the only issue. The Max package includes access to the Red Zone Channel, which I thought that was the only major benefit, but I should have read the fine print. The regular package only allows you to watch Sunday Ticket on one device, so my plans to have three games streaming simultaneously was quickly quashed. Still, there was the Game Mix option where four games could be watched on the same screen. As long as you don't try to maximize that screen. Yes, even that simple feature would cost another $130. So for the first few weeks, I tried to make do with watching four games, each being played in an area the size of an iPhone. That is simply not enjoyable, even though football is the best sport to watch multiple games, with about 10 seconds of action for every minute of real time. For the rest of the season, I picked one game and concentrated on it.

Not all is terrible with Sunday Ticket: when a big play happens in another game, you are presented with a brief description of the play and have the option to click to see the highlight (even for games not available for regular viewing) without missing any of the action in your game. And after the game, all big plays are available. Still, that is not worth the overall price given the limitations.

In sum, out of 256 NFL regular season games, Sunday Ticket allows you to view about 160 of them, for just over $1 a game. The only way this could possibly be worthwhile is if you live out of the TV market of your favourite team (that gets few prime time games). For me it mostly a waste, particularly considering I was at NFL games on six Sundays in 2014. Compared to the NHL Center Ice and MLB.TV packages, Sunday Ticket is just not that good an investment. Think twice if you are considering buying it in 2015.

Best,

Sean

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