SBJ/July 31 - August 6, 2006/This Weeks News

DirecTV holds line on Ticket

One year after launching its NFL Sunday Ticket SuperFan service, which included several interactive TV features, DirecTV has decided to introduce only one new interactive feature for the upcoming NFL season: a player tracker that will follow the progress of up to nine players.

DirecTV will introduce only one new interactive
feature for NFL Sunday Ticket SuperFan subs.
“This year, we’re taking an incremental step,” said Eric Shanks, executive vice president of DirecTV Entertainment.

Part of the reason why DirecTV isn’t rolling out more interactive services is to give its Sunday Ticket subscribers a chance to get more comfortable with the features they already have.

“We want to get customers to use it more,” Shanks said. “If you continuously bombard customers with new stuff all the time, they shut down and don’t use anything.”

Considered the most advanced interactive platform in the United States, DirecTV plans to launch several new services to Sunday Ticket in 2008, including streaming content to subscribers through the Web and developing content for cell phones.

For the upcoming season, however, DirecTV is rolling out only the Player Tracker, a fantasy-based service that will give viewers an alert each time one of their nine players is involved in a play.

One upgrade Sunday Ticket subscribers will notice this year will be the inclusion of CBS games on the Red Zone Channel, which shows the most exciting plays and scores on one channel as they are happening. Last year, DirecTV didn’t have the rights to include those games. Under its new Sunday Ticket deal that kicks in this year, DirecTV now has the CBS rights.

The SuperFan service launched last year allowed viewers to watch up to eight broadcasts on one screen. It also provided the Red Zone Channel and an offering called Short Cuts, which edits down games to 30 minutes or less, starting at midnight on Sundays.

Sunday Ticket costs about $249 per season, a DirecTV spokesman said. The SuperFan service costs an extra $99. DirecTV would not say how many customers subscribe to either service.

Shanks did, however, characterize the interactive applications as popular. Last year, 40 percent of Sunday Ticket subscribers who had set-top boxes that could access interactive features used them. Two-thirds of them used the feature 10 times or more, Shanks said.

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