AT&T is trying to gain traction for its $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV by sending up a trial balloon that it could offer the NFL’s Sunday Ticket to its wireless phone subscribers.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that AT&T’s management floated the possibility of offering NFL Sunday Ticket, which has long been an ace in DirecTV’s lineup, to its phone subscribers without having it count against their data limits. The pitch was during an analyst meeting in New York on Wednesday.
AT&T "is looking to use the Sunday Ticket content over mobile devices and expects that it can be a differentiator over the long run to gain incremental market share in both mobile and broadband," Barclays said in a research note that was quoted in The Wall Street Journal story.
Sunday Ticket gives access to every out-of-market Sunday NFL game, with bells and whistles such as the ability to watch numerous live games simultaneously, side-by-side.
DirecTV’s contract with the NFL for Sunday Ticket runs out at the end of the upcoming season, but both AT&T and DirecTV execs have said they expect a new deal to be reached. AT&T can bail out on its bid to buy DirecTV if the latter isn’t able to come to terms with the NFL on a Sunday Ticket contract, which highlights how important the service is to AT&T.
The Wall Street Journal story said that if DirecTV does lock down the rights to Sunday Ticket they don’t automatically apply to AT&T’s wireless customers. DirecTV’s mobile streaming rights cover the subscribers that are paying for its satellite service. According to unnamed sources, the newspaper said that under the current negotiations between DirecTV and the NFL, AT&T wouldn’t have separate or expanded rights to Sunday Ticket.
According to analysts at the meeting, AT&T was vague about its Sunday Ticket ambitions as far as bundling it with other services or offering it as a standalone option to wireless customers.
In theory, AT&T would be able to gain ground on Verizon if it were able to serve up Sunday Ticket to its wireless customers. Sunday Ticket has also been a thorn in cable operators’ collective side since they can’t offer the service to their video customers.