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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.”

Sports Radio News

WEEI Producer Begins Campaign To Get Greg Hill into Radio Hall of Fame

“He has been around for a long time in the Boston radio scene and raised a lot of money for charity and done a lot of good things and a lot of good radio.”

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Greg Hill already has a Marconi, but that honor isn’t enough according to one of his producers.

Jackson, who hosts The Greg Hill Show’s after-show podcast, revealed on Monday that he is ready to make the case to the Radio Hall of Fame for the WEEI morning man to be included in next year’s induction ceremony.

He said that Hill treats the Marconi Award he won for Major Market Personality of the Year like it belongs to everyone. Hill credits not just the current cast he works with on WEEI, but partners from his days at active rocker WAAF as well, with helping him take home that award. Jackson wants to see Hill get an honor that is just for him.

“The Radio Hall of Fame would be very much Greg only, and I think he needs that solo recognition. Not for his ego, but for posterity and for his legend because he is legendary,” Jackson said. “He has been around for a long time in the Boston radio scene and raised a lot of money for charity and done a lot of good things and a lot of good radio.”

This year, the Radio Hall of Fame included a trio of WFAN legends in its induction class with found Jeff Smulyan, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and Suzyn Waldman all being honored.

Jackson says he is taking it upon himself to make the case for Greg Hill getting in, but he encouraged listeners to find out what they can do and then do it. While he made it clear that Hill deserves the honor, Jackson acknowledged that the recognition would make him feel pretty good too.

“That would be cool because then I would be working for a Radio Hall-of-Famer and in the circle of trust of a Radio Hall-of-Famer perhaps.”

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Jason Barrett Podcast

Jason Barrett Podcast: Jeff Smulyan, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down

Jason Barrett

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There would be no sports radio if not for Jeff Smulyan. He takes JB through the triumphs and disappointments of his career and explains why he is sharing so many stories in a new book, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down. To pick up your copy, click here.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

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Sports Radio News

Zolak & Bertrand: Kirk Herbstreit’s Comments A Wake Up Call For Patriots Fans

“Next time you feel like they shouldn’t be booing them, there’s someone from a national perspective – who has been calling games now in the NFL for at least all of this year – but is very familiar with the league and all the different cities and he’s been in college environments for a decade plus, and said their fans aren’t angry enough.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Zolak and Bertrand

Things appeared to come to a head for the New England Patriots and their fans last week as the team fell to the Buffalo Bills 24-10.

Many fans of the Patriots with the loss seem to have accepted the fact that the glory days of the franchise are officially over. Thursday Night Football analyst Kirk Herbstreit even noted that it was off-putting that fans near his broadcast vantage point were fine with the Pats coming out on the losing end.

“I just felt the sense of acceptance of where they are,” Herbstreit said during a Friday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “It really shocked me. I’m just so used to the Patriots’ 20 years of excellence, and not just the NFL in all of professional sports. And to see their fan base just like, we suck, whatever, game’s over, like early they were like that.”

On Zolak & Bertrand Monday, co-host Scott Zolak disagreed with Herbstreit’s take.

“I don’t know what you want from a fan base to do after that when the game’s over, and the place starts to dump out,” he said. “The game was well in hand.”

Zolak’s cohort Marc Bertrand felt differently, praising Herbstreit for offering that sort of perspective.

“Next time you feel like they shouldn’t be booing them, there’s someone from a national perspective – who has been calling games now in the NFL for at least all of this year – but is very familiar with the league and all the different cities and he’s been in college environments for a decade plus, and said their fans aren’t angry enough,” Bertrand said. “They let ’em off the hook.”

Bertrand felt like Patriots fans had every right to be pissed off with the product the team put on the field last week and have done so far this season. Especially when people are paying top dollar for admission to games.

“That product doesn’t match those prices last Thursday night,” he said, continuing to agree with what Herbstreit said. “You don’t hear that a lot around here. So I thought it was a nice change up.”

Zolak and Bertrand both seemed to determine that perhaps it was a case of fans being too nice and being willing to accept failure from head coach Bill Belichick and his staff.

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