An Excellent History Of The Evil DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket Monopoly

NFL Sunday Ticket is like amazing delicious super crack. From the ability to watch whatever game your fickle heart desires, to the hypnotic decadence of “The Red Zone Channel,” NFL Sunday Ticket is well, radical.

But you can only get it on DirecTV. So it sucks. And it makes the NFL into a bunch of hypocrites when they whine that Comcast and Time Warner are relegating its “NFL Network” to a sports tier. And they whine an awful lot.

From ESPN:

The doublespeak here is rich. The NFL restricts its magnificent Sunday Ticket product, which enables viewers to choose for themselves which game to watch, to the lucky few who get the satellite service DirecTV. Millions of homes cannot receive DirecTV for technical reasons or can pull in the signal only after expensive special installations. Frank Hawkins, the NFL’s chief negotiator for television contracts, told me that when he lived in Virginia, his home could not receive DirecTV until he had a tall metal pole installed in his backyard. Yet although the NFL won’t let anyone in the U.S. except DirecTV subscribers watch Sunday Ticket, the league is furious that Time-Warner and Cablevision won’t buy the NFL Network and Comcast will buy the NFL Network for its premium sports tier only. The NFL wants NFLN on every basic cable system, which was the path to success for ESPN and CNN. A war of words has broken out, in which the NFL is denouncing the cable carriers in consumer-rights language while asking that Congress intervene to force the NFL Network onto basic cable. The cable carriers are firing back, accusing the NFL of all manner of perfidy. Meanwhile, 35 million households already get the NFL Network, while only 1.6 million get Sunday Ticket — and the consumer’s barriers to Sunday Ticket are much higher than the barriers to the NFL Network.

The article goes on to explain the sordid history of the DirecTV Sunday Ticket monopoly. Interesting stuff. Monopolies are bad.

It’s time to open up NFL Sunday Ticket to everyone [ESPN]


Edit Your Comment

  1. GearheadGeek says:

    I know from a friend high up at Time Warner that they have also offered to put the NFL Network in a Sports Tier or offer it as a premium channel, but the greedy bastards at the NFL want EVERYONE TO PAY. Even me, and I couldn’t give a tinker’s damn about football. I think it’s funny that Time Warner is now offering to carry the NFL Network AT COST, zero profit for them, just to show up the NFL schmucks. I’m interested to see how the NFL spins that one when they again demand that every cable subscriber pay for their channel that, even to most football fans, is worthless 2/3 of the year.

  2. Buran says:

    Do these idiots really think that Congress doesn’t have more important things to do than get involved in what tier a channel should be part of?

    Not that they seem to be getting a whole lot done what with all the bills they pass that are actually sensible winding up on the trash heap and unimplemented by the government …

    They all get a fat thumbs down from me.

  3. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @Buran: The American government was built to be a slow and broken system from the start by the founding fathers to protect the people and the minority. It was possible to have a very efficient one that is done by majority like the UK, but in such a large country, a large amount of people can get screwed if they are like in a 49% minority, in the UK, the number is way smaller compared to the US.

  4. scooby2 says:

    Sunday Ticket is a god send. Nothing like being able to watch your team no matter where you live. Nothing like being able to watch the Steelers here in Motown. The Lions are like minor league or college at best.

    Here we go Steelers, Here we go!!!

  5. Major-General says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: Rather, the founders founded a federal government that had certain specific rights and duties, and everything else was left up to the states.

  6. Easterbrook has been banging on Sunday Ticket for some time now. Perhaps he will make some headway, but the NFL is known to dig their heels in.

  7. stinerman says:

    Since the NFL is a monopoly, congress has special oversight abilities. Remember the hearings on steroids in baseball? Same basic idea.

  8. @stinerman:
    While Congress is having hearings on the NFL, they can add Comcast to the list for its monopolistic behavior as well.

  9. pragakhan says:

    Was that the longest article ever written? It had everything, Sunday Ticket, cheer leaders, animals and jets.

    It was like a news paper in one article!

  10. kimsama says:

    @scooby2: Oh yeah, here we go, Steelers!

    I agree, nothing like getting to watch the Black and Gold anywhere, but I do it a different way — there’s a sports bar a block from my apt, so I buy a cheapo beer and nurse it for three hours. Less expensive than DirecTV for sure! ^_^

  11. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Whatever will stop people in my office from coming to work on Mondays/Tuesdays talking about people they don’t know and a game they are not fit to play, as if they know them personally and could play better. Let’s not even get started on the fantasy wannabees.

  12. Munsoned says:

    I’m a long-time reader of Easterbrook’s column. It becomes repetitive at times, but I still read it every Tuesday on ESPN Page 2. Yes, it is always that long. Usually he has a second (not so long) column on Wednesdays where he answers reader mail, which is pretty good too. I have no idea how he does it week in and week out. That’s a lot of games to review and write about.

  13. weg1978 says:

    There is an important distinction between a monopoly and an entity engaging in monopolistic practices. Monopolies occur all the time (hospitals in rural towns, etc) because the market will only support one supplier. Depending on your opinion, the NFL may be that type of monopoly (a ‘natural’ monopoly) or the more easily trashed US Steel type of monopoly.

    I’d probably opt for the former, since there have been several attempts to start competing leagues (aside from Arena football, etc), all of which have failed. The NFL didn’t limit or attempt to limit those leagues: it won because its product is superior. Since they won fair and square, they can call the shots on DirecTV. I do think they need to stop whining about the cable companies not carrying NFLN, and I think they’ll come to a compromise. At that point, the way will be open for Sunday Ticket to make its way to the cable arena.

  14. ry81984 says:

    There is enough sports channels on cable.

    To be fair they should add more of other customers wanted channels before adding any more sports channels.

  15. babaki says:

    sunday ticket is a rip off. isnt something like 175-200 bucks for the package?? thats a lot of scrilla for one program.

  16. Groovymarlin says:

    I’m sure that DirecTV is really putting the pressure on the NFL to keep Sunday Ticket a DirecTV exclusive. At this point, it’s one of the only selling points DirecTV has left. Think about it – satellite TV used to be cutting edge technology, but they’re getting left in the dust by digital cable and Verizon FIOS. Digital cable/fiber optic can offer more channels, more competitive prices, and they have On Demand, which DirecTV can’t offer due to technical limitations. Sunday Ticket is nice, but I’d have to be a pretty rabid football fan to keep DirecTV just for that (though probably some fans do).

  17. savvy9999 says:

    The fact that Meg posted this article, and thus probably cares a lot about both monopolies and football… means she me must be close to perfect.

    [/tear in my eye]

  18. lawnmowerdeth says:

    I fianlly dropped NFLST this year after having it for 6 years straight. Back when it was $149 it was great. $250, plus another $50 to $100 for HD is just ridiculous. Hopefully enough other people were fed up to send this message, but I doubt it.

  19. Slothrob says:

    I still think it’s cheap at $250… if only because otherwise I would have to go to a bar to see my team play. At $250,it’s about $15 a game… I doubt anyone can spend four hours in a bar and spend less than $15. (At least here in NYC)

  20. shaneml98 says:

    Agrees with Slothrob..

    I am an addict. I used to go to the bar every Sunday and watch football for 6 hours. I would spend about $30-$40 on food and drink. I have two 20″ TV’s and 1 42″ DLP HD TV i in my game room to watch football all day Sunday and it’s much cheaper than going to the bar. Plus I don’t have to drive after I have had a few.

  21. Buran says:

    @ry81984: No kidding. I’ve been writing complaints to Charter here to get CBS HD back and they still haven’t added it but they HAVE added crap channels that no one I’ve asked has ever heard of.

  22. Buran says:

    @stinerman: Cable companies are regional monopolies, not national ones, and this is a business matter. Do you hear about Congress getting involved when the Sci-Fi channel goes to digital-only in some regions, for example (as it did for someone I know)? No, you don’t. Gee, there’s probably a good reason for that.

  23. Buran says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: You get that sort of thing with just about any interest people might have that they don’t actually partake in themselves.

    I don’t see anything wrong with being interested in something that you cant do yourself, though. I’m a military aviation buff, but I’m unfit to be in the military (I’m partly deaf) — does that mean that I can’t comment on things that are of interest to me?

  24. Youthier says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: I feel I have the right to criticize anyone that makes more every Sunday than I probably will in the next decade.

  25. Cowboys_fan says:

    So people are upset b/c the NFL won’t allow them to pay too much for a useless service!? I’m an avid football fan but I couldn’t care less on this issue. Its not like I don’t already get 7 games/sunday on my cable, do I really need those extra games? If it were ppv/game or something similar, that could be different, or if all the games weren’t played on the same day. For all I care, they can drop the package altogether. It may seem like a money grab, but they won’t get mine.

  26. EagleTheta says:

    A monopoly, the NFL, is going to ask Congress to mandate every cable subscriber is required to pay for their content? Who’s next? The NBA? Then the NHL? How about PGA?

    The problem is that most American probably don’t place as much value on football as the NFL does. And should not be forced to subsidize it via the Cable companies.

    The Cable Companies (God help me, I’m defending them…) should be the ones to determine the price and tier structure of their offerings. Otherwise, you might as well have to add in a NFL license fee at the hospital requiring every baby to have their parents favorite teams logo tattooed on their foreheads.

  27. gruffydd says:

    You think I can order Sunday Ticket to see the Colts/Patriots game this weekend and then cancel? Of course, it’s not being shown in Los Angeles.

  28. Sonnymooks says:

    The article gets the tone and viewpoint right, but is kind of shoddy in its research, it chose emotional appeal with sprinkling of facts as opposed to a more fact based, but less emotional appeal in going toward the right direction.

  29. Sonnymooks says:

    By the way, I just realized that some may wonder what I meant by more fact based reasoning, News corp owns Fox, as well as being the controlling owner of direcTV, and the arguement about Fox wanting to cap avalbility was bull, FOX, like CBS in the past, has the right to refuse to allow its games to be part of the sunday ticket, the reality, is that FOX only allows its games rebroadcast on sunday ticket because its on directv which has the same ownership as FOX. If sunday ticket was made avalable to cable companies, FOX would refuse, and invoke their rights, making the ticket worthless.

    The article ignores the fact that FOX and DirecTV are both owned by newscorp (or controlled by) and ignores the role this plays into the whole debate, thus leaving the reader with less information….it also allows ESPN to take shots at a competitor (NFL Network) while not bashing FOX, who could always screw ESPN over airing its game highlights and in other ways.

    Don’t yall just love big media?

  30. FightOnTrojans says:

    @gruffydd: It’s being shown on CBS Channel 2 according to the LA Times. We got screwed on the Patriots/Cowboys game a few weeks ago, eh? Go Pats! Oh yeah, and Fight On!

  31. tkayo says:

    To subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket in High Definition (HD) you must subscribe to NFL Superfan, which is a $99 cost. DirecTV will not allow consumers to get NFL Sunday Ticket games boadcast in HD unless consumers also pay the $99 fee for NFL Superfan. In contrast, DirecTV only charges $10 to get access to all other HD broadcasts.

    To subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket (a service which is only broadcast 4 months a year), DirecTV requires a consumer to get a 2 year subscription to a DirecTV programming package. This is true if you own your equipment or lease your equipment from DirecTV.

    DirecTV uses their monopoly to force consumers who want to subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket to purchase other services they do not want. IMO: beyond what is reasonable.

  32. JustAGuy2 says:


    DirecTV will only be controlled by News for another month or so – News is selling the 39% stake to Liberty Media.

  33. Sonnymooks says:


    I know, Murdoch (during a shareholder meeting) referred to Directv as a “turd” and after said meeting again called it “shit”. That said, its also why you will see the Sunday Ticket on cable in a couple of years. During the last re-up with directv about sunday ticket, Directv allowed the exclusivity to be waived at the end of this deal, and won’t ever have it again after this deal runs out.

  34. JustAGuy2 says:


    Hadn’t heard about the turd comment (Murdoch’s usually more circumspect than that in public), but I agree that the exclusivity probably ends with this contract. Directv’s established enough, they don’t really need it anymore.

  35. Realtor1 says:

    To clear something up, Direct TV DOES have a on demand feature now. I discovered it on my HDdvr last night. It has a majority of the regular chaneels and also the premiums (if you subscribe)

    I think its bullshit that you have to pay 99.00 for the superfan to get the games in HD when they are already being broadcast in HD and are an HD subscriber…seems like a bogus double charge.

    If they didnt have superior picture quality, less of a cost than comcast, and Sunday Ticket I would have been gone long ago.

    I have no affiliation with DTV…but can tell you I have called them a couple time to just ask questions and next thing you know I got 3-6 months of free premium channels and new HD DVR reciver.

    If comcast had a sunday ticket option dont you think it would be even more than the 250 Dtv CHarges?

  36. Trick says:

    I paid for half of my Mom’s Sunday ticket. She has like five receivers in her house so I took one and use it at my home, where I have DirecTV as well.

    She lives in a area that has local Los Angeles channels so we get the local channels there, instead of the Santa Barbara channels… that’s OK though. My mom also has the complete package with HBO and all…

  37. Frank Grimes says:

    The article in question was written by Greg Easterboork, who a few weeks ago was given a very pulic beatdown by the ESPN Ombudsman. His incoherent and assinine opinions regarding the New England Patriots were ripped to shreads. While he may make a few salient points about SNFLP he has lost what little credibility he had left with his ongoing screde against all things Patriots.