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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

Evan Roberts: Boomer Esiason Was Taking Shot at Craig Carton With FS1 Dig

“He said they only put the stuff no one cares about on FS1. And he did it with his Boomer smile where I knew what he was mentioning.”

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WFAN afternoon host Evan Roberts was listening to the station’s morning show, Boomer & Gio, and heard what he believed was a slight towards his current co-host Craig Carton Wednesday from Boomer Esiason.

“I heard Boomer this morning taking some shots at you. I did not like it,” Roberts said. “Did not like it. Big shots at my partner. He made a comment about how FOX puts stuff that no one cares about on FS1. And he meant that directly at you.”

“First off, he wouldn’t say that,” replied Carton.

“He said it. I listened. He said they only put the stuff no one cares about on FS1,” Roberts reiterated. “And he did it with his Boomer smile where I knew what he was mentioning. He wasn’t talking about anything other than his old, dear friend Craig. What a cheap shot.”

Carton, who hosts The Carton Show each weekday morning on FS1, said no one must have been listening to Boomer’s attack because he didn’t get any tweets or emails about it.

“Boomer’s probably listening — because he does listen to us — and he’s probably smiling saying ‘Evan’s right!’,” Roberts said before laughing out loud.

“If he did say it — next time — I’ll just ask a favor,” Carton asked of Esiason. “Reminder your listeners that I am on FS1 from 7:00-9:30 AM, but only until 9:00 AM this week because of World Cup soccer. If you’re gonna take a shot, it allows me to promote it. And I don’t promote it here.”

A caller later told Carton & Roberts the exact moment, down to the minute, of when Esiason made the quip about FS1. Producers then pulled up the clip, which they played on the air.

After hearing the clip, Carton joked FOX puts they stuff they don’t care about on FS2 before asking “Now I gotta figure out, do I respond or not? Or do I just let it go?” before concluding that he’s more mature than making a response.

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Fred Toucher Tells Paul Finebaum: Your Greatest Talent Is Not Losing It On Callers

“What you’re actually taught in radio — and not to the benefit of people — is to move things along and cut people off.”

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Paul Finebaum

98.5 The Sports Hub morning show Toucher & Rich has frequently pointed out the absurdity of callers into The Paul Finebaum Show. Thursday morning, the Boston show welcomed in the southern college football host to discuss what makes his show tick.

“I can’t tell you how big a thrill this is for me, because I didn’t realize how funny our show was until I started listening to you guys,” Finebaum joked.

“Part of the brilliance of your show is you just let these people go,” Fred Toucher said. “For those that don’t know, the instinct in what you’re actually taught in radio — and not to the benefit of people — is to move things along and cut people off. At what point did you realize ‘I’m just gonna let these dudes talk and see where they take it’?”

“I listened to all these radio goobs — I mean all these people in the corner office — tell us how to do it and I realized I can’t do that. I didn’t have the radio voice, I didn’t have the style, I didn’t have the energy. So I just sat there and literally listened to callers ramble on and I started to find the humor in it.

“It hit me one day that these people don’t have a voice,” Finebaum continued. “Especially in the south where we don’t have six or seven professional sports franchises. Callers started becoming famous and becoming a part of the show. We started having lunches with them for Christmas and various other things and days and I think we realized what we had and we made the most of it. Some of these callers really defy logic. I think I’ve given four or five eulogies at various callers funerals and I think that there’s a connection there.”

Finebaum then mentioned one of his more notorious callers, Legend. The caller actually spent more than 20 years in prison after shooting someone six times. Toucher said Legend has actually called into their show but they have never taken his call.

“We don’t take Legend because we’re not gonna do as good a job with him,” Toucher said. “I told our producer, I do not want to take Legend.”

“Paul’s a master with him,” Rich Shertenlieb added.

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Sports Radio News

Gregg Giannotti: CBS Won’t Show Deshaun Watson Accusers Sunday

“I think people know what’s going on. You’re not gonna show them and start trashing them on the broadcast.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to make his 2022 season debut against his former team on Sunday following an 11-game suspension. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct, and 10 of the women who believe the now-Cleveland Browns QB preyed upon them are planning to attend the game in Houston. On Boomer & Gio on WFAN on Wednesday, co-host Gregg Giannotti had a thought on CBS cameras dedicating a snippet of the game broadcast to showing the women in attendance.

“I wonder does like the broadcast show them?” Gio asked to co-host Boomer Esiason. “Are you guys gonna have to talk about that on The NFL Today?”

“I have no idea,” Esiason responded. Boomer explained that they hadn’t had their production meeting for this week’s show, but he felt like beyond that he and Gio had already discussed the Watson situation at great length.

Still, Gio said if he were in charge of the CBS broadcast, he would find a way to show the alleged victims’ faces.

“I mean you could show them and explain the situation,” he said. “I think people know what’s going on. You’re not gonna show them and start trashing them on the broadcast.”

Once the 2022 NFL season started, and Watson accepted the suspension and began going through the various processes he needed to go through in order to be reinstated, the focus shifted away from the story. But Gio added that now that Watson is ready to play, the story gets thrust back into the limelight.

“Nobody was talking about it for weeks and weeks and weeks, and now he’s back,” he said. “And now it’s back.”

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