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NFL Sunday Ticket for $350 a Season? Really?!?!

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As I type this, Colbie Caillat has just finished the National Anthem before the start of what Al Michael calls the best reality show on television - the National Football League. I love football. I'm a Patriots fan, and even though tonight's game is between the Vikings and Saints doesn't impact the Patriots I'm excited for the game. I've been tackling furniture all day. I can throw my remote in a perfect spiral to any point on my couch with pinpoint accuracy. I'm not alone in my excitement. People all over the United States are celebrating the start of the NFL in (likely) more sensible ways.

Unfortunately the NFL doesn't make being a New England Patriots fan in San Francisco easy. For as long as I can remember, DirecTV has had exclusive rights to the out-of-market football games. Since I've moved to San Francisco, I've been renting, which means that installing the satellite dish that DirecTV requires was not an option. Oh how I longed for another option.

It seems that I should have been a little more careful about what I wished for. This year DirecTV created an Internet-only option. Finally, I could get NFL Sunday Ticket over my cable modem and hook it up to my TV via the HDMI out port on my computer.

It is a dream come true... except... for the price. As the title says, it's $350 for the season. That's outrageous... there's no other word for it. In stark contrast to the NFL, Major League Baseball's equivalent package is $119.95 a year. So a season of football is approximately 3 times as much as a season of baseball. Sound pricey? It gets worse. When I buy the baseball package, I get access to roughly 155 Boston Red Sox games (several are typically blacked out because they are on other networks) over a span of six months. I'm paying $0.77 a game for the ability to watch the game in my living room. However when I buy the NFL package, I get access to roughly 14 New England Patriots games (a couple are typically blacked for the same reason as the Red Sox ones). That is $25 a game. It seems an NFL game is more than 32 times more expensive than a baseball game.

Some sports fans out there may argue that I'm playing with the numbers a bit. For instance there are 17 weeks of regular season football. The games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights are available on other networks (NBC, ESPN). Realistically that gives the NFL super fan the ability to watch 34 games throughout the season... the games at 1PM EST and the games at 4PM EST on Sunday. However, the number of baseball games available to the MLB super fan is numbers in the hundreds with games at multiple times every day of the week from April to October... I'd estimate nearly 500 games a season.

The worst part is that there's not much a consumer can do about the situation. NFL and its exclusive deal with DirecTV are essentially two monopolies. Not only is there no competition, but the most consumers don't have the option to buy the actual product that they want the most. As I mentioned before, I'm only looking to watch my favorite team, the New England Patriots. DirecTV knows this. They have multiple advertising campaigns about displaced fans... I don't think I've seen a one about someone who is just a general fan of the NFL who wants to watch any and every game regardless who is playing.

I'm not up on my monopoly rules, but if you are granted a legal monopoly, as I believe the NFL has been by the US government, shouldn't you be required to offer a package that is appropriate to common fan's desire? For example, a consumer should be able to pick their favorite team and get all their games for somewhere between $5 and $10 each.

What do you think? With the looming NFL labor strike next season, are you thinking boycott? I'm one of the game's biggest fans, and I'm starting to think about it. The NFL needs a reality check. This seems to be the right time for consumers to deliver it.

Final Note: If you are giving into DirecTV's exorbitant prices, consider using a DirecTV Promo Code to save some money.

Last updated on October 29, 2010.

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42 Responses to “NFL Sunday Ticket for $350 a Season? Really?!?!”

  1. I can buy a season ticket to see the game. Why can’t I buy a package to get just the games I want?

  2. Rick says:

    Supply and Demand. They will keep raising prices if margins and revenue keeps going up. Simple as that.

  3. Matt says:

    You think you have problems? Puh-leeze. Try being a Cleveland Browns (former) fan (or a fan of any Cleveland pro sports team, for that matter. NO (zero, zilch, nada, zip) sports championships in roughly half a CENTURY.

    But, I’m saving money. I haven’t followed the Browns for years now, and by the looks of things, won’t have to any time soon. DirecTV recently lost me as a customer, and certainly doesn’t have any chance of gaining me back. DirecTV’s lousy customer service and my lack of passion for a pathetic team = big savings for me!

  4. CJ says:

    Look at it this way – $350 (or $320 from what I paid on DTV’s site). You get nearly every out of market game for 17 weeks. It’s pretty easy to pay close to $300 for attending one game in person alone for tickets/food/etc, so $350 for all of those games is easier to stomach. Also, I believe I paid $180 for the full season of MLB Extra Innings from TWC this past year.

    Perhaps for your sake they will offer per-team packages in the future, that way you can purchase the games you want to see (probably for a crazy price). Myself on the other hand, I’m stoked to have the option to watch any game when the Chiefs are sucking it up.

  5. “Some sports fans out there may argue that I’m playing with the numbers a bit.”

    I don’t think you’re playing with the numbers at all. Fact is that baseball packages give you a LOT more games for less money. The NFL package for DirectTV (normal DTV option, not internet) is $300 – MLB Extra Innings is $200. You can get audio (over internet) of ALL MLB games for $15. The same feature – for 1/10 of the games – costs $40 for the NFL. And the sad thing is that I’m pretty sure that’s cheaper than it was in years past – I seem to remember $80.

    The only bad thing is MLB’s blackout policy. I’m in Iowa, where an astounding 5 teams are blacked out (Cubs, ChiSox, Cardinals, Twins, Brewers). The Cardinals have minimal local coverage here and the Twins and Brewers have zero coverage. I’m annoyed enough when my Rockies play these teams and I can’t see the games … but if I were a Brewers fan, I’d be completely shut out of games (plus, I’d be a fan of the Brewers … which would really suck).

    Now, with two young kids in the house, I don’t catch as many games as I would like, but I’ll probably catch parts of 60 games, and can choose to DVR games to watch later.

  6. Steve says:

    The shiny is coming off my nfl experience, too. It started last year when the nfl channel started broadcasting games. My local cable company wouldn’t pay the high price to get the channel & explained why in a letter to their customers. I’m pretty sure this season will get less of my time.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Matt, I think it was ESPN that showed a montage of Cleveland sport misery when LeBron left. It was amazing. On the bright side, you have Drew Carey.

      CJ, it is hard for me to compare the price of watching a game on TV and going to the game (especially with the food part). I really think the best comparison is with the price of what other sports charge for a similar package.

  7. 100K Club says:

    The worst has got to be the teams that don’t sell enough tickets to display the game locally. Due to NFL regulations if the game doesn’t sell out it is blacked out locally. So even if your team is playing on network TV you have a chance to not be able to watch.

    $350 a season is unbelievable. For that price you might as well setup a slingbox at a relatives house back in New England to get the local coverage. It would more than pay for itself the first year.

  8. Steve VB says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate a bit, how much did it cost to watch your team play every game in 1980?

    You seem to be complaining about a new option that DirecTV created recently and is now offering – an option unavailable in the past. No one is forcing you to pay $350 if you don’t want to.

    • Lazy Man says:

      In 1980, I was 4 years old and didn’t watch much football. However, because I lived in New England the games were absolutely free to anyone with a television.

      If I buy a car, and it turns out the person who sold it to me intentionally sold me a lemon, would you say, “How did your car work in the 1850’s? You seem to be complaining about an option that was unavailable in the past.”

      The reason why the option was unavailable in the past is because the NFL is allowed to do exclusive deals with distribution channels (DirecTV), who had purposely decided to not make the product available (until recently). The ability to watch games online has been available for some time via NFL GamePass (https://gamepass.nfl.com/)… as long as you aren’t in the United States.

      It’s hard to give DirecTV credit for making something available now when they were the reason it wasn’t available in the past.

      I’m usually a big fan of “no one is forcing you to pay the money if you don’t want to” logic, but it fails with monopolies. Imagine every computer in the world ran Microsoft Windows and there were no other alternatives. Is it fair for Microsoft to charge whatever it wants for its operating system? No one is forcing you to pay the money to be able to use a computer. What if only one car company was allowed access to roads in America and there were no alternatives. Is it fair for that car company to charge $250,000 per car? No one is forcing you to buy a car right?

  9. Steve VB says:

    The point about 1980 was that the technology did not exist and no one was complaining about the inability to watch their team playing 3000 miles away over the internet. It was not possible.

    “If I buy a car, and it turns out the person who sold it to me intentionally sold me a lemon, would you say, “How did your car work in the 1850’s? You seem to be complaining about an option that was unavailable in the past.””

    I’m not sure how this fits in here. Did DirecTV charge you $350 and you did not get access to the games? That would seem to be what you are saying in the car example. If DirecTV (or a car company) sold you an ineffective product on purpose it would be fraud and the company would not survive long.

    “Imagine every computer in the world ran Microsoft Windows and there were no other alternatives. Is it fair for Microsoft to charge whatever it wants for its operating system?”

    Yes – and this may be where we will need to agree to disagree as I think we may disagree on the role of property rights. The NFL has the right to enter into an exclusive contract (just as Apple does with AT&T).

    Just because DirecTV is on the other end of that exclusive contract does not mean they are required to “offer a package that is appropriate to common fan’s desire.” In fact, DirecTV does attempt to do this with their TV subscription and the online subscription. Maybe their business research is mistaken (perhaps they thought more folks would want all the games – for fantasy football reasons – than would want only their teams games) and they would be more profitable to also offer the “one team” option. But, that is their decision as a business and you can certainly voice your concerns as a consumer (and, of course, by not buying their product, you are voicing your opinion).

    • Lazy Man says:

      The car example in the 1850’s was not meant to be an exact analogy to the situation with DirecTV. It was meant to debate the “the technology did not exist and no one was complaining about the inability to [X]. It was not possible” argument. Specifically, the point is that our technology has improved to where cars and streaming video are with the technology expectations of society today. Thus we should not point to the past and use that as a comparison point. DirecTV didn’t invent streaming video over the Internet. They didn’t even pioneer streaming NFL games over the Internet (Yahoo did with GamePass).

      On the Windows thing, I am very surprised that you’d take that point – Microsoft could change anything they want if they own all the computers systems. I may need to go back and study why the government breaks up monopolies. Anything that is legal allowed to operate with no competition like my water bill for example should be regulated in some way. I argue that the NFL should not have the right to enter into exclusive contracts. The difference between Apple and the NFL is that the NFL “enjoys a monopoly in the US”. I *believe* the Supreme Court ruled this way in the past (hence the quotes as I remember a phrase similar to that). I don’t have the time to do the research, but you can find some information towards that here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/10/20/DI2009102001567.html. Apple with its iPhone product on the other hand does not have a monopoly. Google’s Android, Palm’s webOS, and Blackberry are all competing. If I don’t want an iPhone (and I don’t), I enjoy very much the same experience on an Android or webOS phone (personally I choose webOS).

      I’m guessing that DirecTV’s business research is not mistaken… they are just bundling things how they want because they can due to their exclusive contract. Let’s see other companies distributing NFL games and we’ll see if the price that the DirecTV is really consumer friendly. I would love to be the only legally allowed grocery store in the world and require everyone to purchase one of everything in my store if they want anything.

      I don’t think that not doing something is really voicing an opinion. I didn’t buy a Starbucks coffee today. I’m very sure that Starbucks didn’t hear my opinion that I don’t like their coffee (really, I don’t like any coffee).

  10. Todd says:

    Yeah, that is an insane price. I won’t pay for the package, and just watch whatever happens to be on the normal channels. Between that and Fox Soccer Channel, I’m a content sports fan in the fall/winter.

  11. Evan says:

    Falcon Fan living in NY here (I am one of 7 non-Atlanta born folks who actually like them). There are other options to watch the game if you’d like to contact me off of here.

  12. Bob says:

    Too expensive. Sort of. I know, I know, price point is what the mkt will bear and mostly I have no quarrel w/ concept. Supply and demand period. So suck it up, grow pair etc. Sure sure, plus luckily, I can pony the bucks w/o hurting family. Still $300+ for a few weeks that’s one hell of a country club barrier-to-entry for lots of fans more knowledgeable and needing than me. I will suck it up and vote no with my bucks. But I’m likely going to whine Sundays too. (Snif)

  13. dave says:

    I got the NFL Ticket from DTV for $180. Every year, before it auto renews, I just call and complain. They will offer you free movie channels and I decline. Eventually you get to a point where they offer credits off your bill to lower the NFL Ticket price. Just keep threatening to cancel until they give in

  14. We all think differently therefore we will not ever agree on everything, but why do we have to? I have season tickets to the TITANS games this year and am really enjoying the games in person. Even though we paid a lot of money for the tickets to the games, I too think that is a lot of money to watch football on television. But hey, that’s just my opinion. GO TITANS!

    Enjoying your blogs LazyMan.
    Connie Williams
    Nashville, TN.

  15. Bill says:

    Why not head to a bar or other establishment close by to watch the game?? Eat before you go and have iced tea’s while you are there, maybe an appetizer, bring ear plugs to block out the screaming fans and voila, you just spent about $10 to watch your game, depending on what you include in the cost. That’s what I do, next to watching the game on “questionable” sites.

  16. Steve says:

    This is what troubles me about moving out of my team’s market someday: paying ridiculous amounts to see 16-20 games per year.

    I could go to a sports bar and get a few beers and something to eat while watching the game for the same price. Why would I pay that much for just the games?

    Alternatively, I’d consider paying $5-$10 each week to see just my team’s games. Highlights of the other games are just fine.

  17. Danielle says:

    The NFL Season Ticket is already priced highly and it’s a little outrageous. I work and subscribe to DISH Network and I personally think that I get so much more value for my money with DISH Network. It’s easy to use and it so much more cost effective. Instead of having the NFL Season Ticket, I use the Multi Sports package which gives me a variety of different sports for significantly less than what DIRECTV customers pay. I invite customers to come check out DISH and explore the possibilities!


  18. d2e215 says:

    And the NFL wonders why there’s wide broadcast of their games online. $350 is a ridiculous price and I refuse the pay that much. Why not stop at $350? Why not $400…$500… $600? Heck make it a cool grand. I’d rather go to a bar – which is roughly what I’ll drink in beer or I’ll take my chances with finding the game being streamed online. Just say no to Sunday Ticket.

  19. alex says:

    so I am not alone. The reason I dropped cable and paid Directv was for the NFL sunday pass, my dream come true. now reality set in at 350 bucks is waayyy too much even for a special treat. My husband offered to pay for it and I said NO, its too much besides I can only watch 4 games at a time (4 tvs in one room) but its still too much. So for 11 years and all the kick offs I can handle…I’ll deal with what the networks show.

  20. doug says:

    if you go to nfl.com and sign up for the nfl rewind package you can subscribe for 50.00. Now you cant view out of market games till sunday midnight into monday morning but if you can wait and id say fore the 350 they are asking for i can, then you can save 300 dollars and still watch every pats game. What i am going to do is sign up again for nfl rewind and on sundays go to a bar and watch my bills play. I know its not easy watching something that you already know the score of but man if you really love football it gives you a chance throughout the week to go back and watch other games including the pats. I love it and i think its one of the best ideas the nfl has come up with!!!

  21. brandon says:

    Crazy price, nba league pass is like $99 online and you can choose the teams you want for a cheaper price. Let me watch my eagles for $150 and ill be happy even tho that’s still a lot. $100 for one team would be better, then they would have much more revenue than charging $350 for the entire season. No one really watches every game anyways. Make it more fan friendly and stop being so greedy and selfish because you can DirectTV. Something needs to be done. Why are there options for all the major sports but the NFL? It’s the most popular sport in America, we shouldn’t have to rely on DirectTv for the NFL. Just sad I think

  22. soundbonz says:

    DirecTV has a contract and they pay over 1 billion dollars per year for the rights to NFL SUNDAY TICKET. The price they charge customers isn’t unreasonable. Plus, if you ask, they usually knock of some of the fee. This is not a monopoly any more than it’s a monopoly that FOX has exclusivity over NFC games. Each fan can watch NFL football every Sunday on their local channel. You just get what the local station decides to broadcast. If you want choice, you pay for it through Sunday Ticket.

    But I gripe about the cost every year, too. I’ve had NFL Sunday Ticket with DirecTV since the late 90’s when it started. The alternative in almost every city, large or small, is to go to a Sports Bar on Sunday and watch your favorite team. I’ve been having that debate over the last several years. My team, the Eagles, are on the local station here in Los Angeles about 6 or 7 games per year. So I’m paying 320 bucks for 9 or 10 games. I’ll drop at least 20 bucks at the bar for a meal, some drinks, and a tip, so what am I really gaining? Not much, if anything at all.

    The NFL is more popular and therefore more valuable than the other three pro sports combined. I have no cause to complain. Baseball is boring on TV except for the playoffs. The NBA is boring even during their playoffs. I do enjoy Hockey, though not anywhere near as exciting as NFL football.

    I’ll call DirecTV in a couple of days and haggle with them and it usually translates into them taking a few bucks off the price.

    • Lazy Man says:

      DirecTV has a monopoly if you want to watch out of town games. As a military family, we don’t always get the choice of where we live. It’s also quite obvious to anyone who knows anything about sports, that its about rooting for “your team.” It’s not like they are selling Steelers coats to Redskins fans because they like to watch just any football game.

      As for the monopoly, with baseball, Comcast, Cox, TimeWarner, DirecTV, etc. all can get the MLB Extra Innings package. You can get similar packages for out-of-town games for basketball and hockey. Every cable/dish network has access to them. I’ve lived in apartment buildings where I couldn’t install DirecTV – without the new Internet option, the only choice was literally to go to the bar.

      Can you haggle with DirecTV on the Internet price of just the football package, when you aren’t a regular DirecTV customer? I’m guessing not. I still don’t have the option for DirecTV due to our rental situation.

  23. BroncoFan says:

    What’s absolutely nuts about this pricing system is they would probably get twice to three times as many online customers if they sold it for $200 instead of $350.

    They should make a per team package at $99 or an everyone package at $199. That’s how I’d price it.

    It’s not supply and demand, it’s poor business decisions by both Direct TV and the NFL.

    • Lazy Man says:

      BroncoFan. I like the way you think. I don’t know if too many would do the $199 package as they’d probably just watch region game after their team played. For example, if I’m a Patriots fan, the Jets are likely to be playing at the same time. Perhaps I could watch the Colts at 4PM, but is that worth double the money. I think it has to be only 25 or 30% more.

  24. brandon says:

    They are forgetting its a game for fans. Just because you can catch highlights on ESPN, does not mean that you will be satisfied. When I was growing up, I was a Detroit Lions fan, loved Barry. I seen him play like 4 times a year. Then when Vick came into the league, I saw him play like 3 times a year until last year. Just make it reasonable online at least

  25. Craig says:

    Honestly when we first got Direct TV back in 2001 it was only $99 for the NFL package, but since then they paid tooth and nail to make sure they would be the only provider and have since hiked the price to a ridiculous amount for what I believe is to cover their expenses. They will not get their money back or this I just can’t see that happening and when their contract runs out I put money it will not renew it with the NFL as the sole provider. Does nothing for us now, but in the future….

  26. Mike Hank says:

    I would rather use some cheaper option for sunday ticket as http://twetv.com for example, as i know upgrade for NFL streamings is just for 44,99 for all games

  27. Walter K says:

    Im mad as hell and can take it anymore! Ive been paying for the Sunday ticket for about 11 years now and came across teh Iphone App was happy for about 2 minutes until I found out its 50$ for the season. I dont know how this stuff continues to go on getting raped by the NFL and direct tv. Looks like this is my last season since I pre paid the year. Since Im on my soapbox is anyone going to look into just one company is allowed to offer these packages if its offered by multiple providers it would make it a more competive market and bring in more subs, sorry makes sense so the NFL wont do it pipe dream..

  28. Candace says:

    BroncosFan, thats a fantastic idea, and not just because you are a Broncos Fan. I could easily justify paying $200 for my husband to watch the Bronco games, but $350! We are expecting our second baby this week and we live in LA, he is going to miss like 14 games if he cant get out to a bar every Sunday. I was going to get it until I realized they upped the price to $350, its actually cheaper for him to go to the bar 14 times for $20 a pop then to get the ticket…dumb dumb dumb.

  29. Dave says:

    Yep, completely agree with everything you’ve written, LM. The price is too high. I want to see more NFL, but not that much. Especially when I can fill my time watching something else from Hulu, various broadcast companies’ websites, or through something I’m already paying for, like Netflix. Seems this price is geared towards the uber-fanatics who would pay basically anything for this access, as opposed to the much larger market of fans who want to watch but would never pay that much. I’m going to sit back and hope that Directv’s contract with the NFL will expire one of these seasons, and then the NFL will be able to join the rest of the media out there and offer ad-supported online access.

    BTW, did you notice you can watch Sunday Night Football live, online, for free, through NBC’s site? It’s pretty dope.

  30. TOF says:

    DirectTV completely scammed me. They got me in to NFL Sunday Ticket in 2010. I cancelled at the proper time for no charges. Then they auto re-subscribed me in 2011. In our consolidated bill, we didn’t notice for two months. Then they said they “can’t” cancel, we need to pay for the whole season. The supervisor told my wife we should invite friends over and charge them to watch. Wow. This is a hack marketing scam. I’m a 10 year customer with plenty of options.

  31. Jer says:

    Thank-you for seeing things my way. Last year, I complained about the cost of NFL Sunday Ticket compared to MLB Extra Innings and NHL Center Ice (both of which I purchase on DirecTV every year) on Facebook and the cost per game, ect. One of my cousins had this to say about it:

    The NFL has only 16 games per team per year to make money. They aren’t putting on TV advertising for 162 games like baseball is. Therefore, they have to charge more for their out of market program. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is putting out 162 games a year, with both teams putting out two different broadcasts and they have to fill the time between innings with advertising. You could say that they’ll get less money per commercial, but multiply that by 162 games and MLB probably makes more money on it. Hell, look at how much A-Rod is making compared to Tom Brady. Furthermore, hockey sucks and that’s why Center Ice is so cheap.

    • Lazy Man says:


      Those are some good points. On the other hand, I would say that football is watched by so many more people than baseball its advertising rates are much, much higher. The other thing with DirecTV is that if your team is good you’ll probably have a few prime time contests a year, so you aren’t even watching 16 of your out-of-market team – it is probably closer to 13 or 14.

      That’s much more expensive that going to the movies, and how much do they cost to produce? That’s not to mention the better screen and sound. Movie theaters should get DirecTV like bars and put the games on. I bet a lot of people would pay $8 for the better screen and sound… and they should be able to get it for the same price as the bars.

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