SBJ/August 13 - 19, 2007/This Weeks News

Broadband, mobile get the Ticket

DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket programming will be available via broadband and mobile phones for the first time this season.

DirecTV continues enhancing NFL Sunday Ticket.

Subscribers to the package’s SuperFan service, Sunday Ticket’s highest and most-expensive level, will be able to stream games to their computers and access highlights on their PDAs and cell phones. While the broadband service is designed for consumers who are traveling on Sundays and unable to watch the games at home, Eric Shanks, DirecTV’s executive vice president of entertainment, believes many fans will stream games to their living room to take advantage of an extra screen.

To access the games via broadband, SuperFan customers will have to log in at directv.com. The resulting password-protected site will let only one person be logged in to an account at a time.

The stand-alone price for Sunday Ticket is $269, up from last year’s $249. The SuperFan service is an additional $99, the same as last year.

DirecTV has held the rights to the NFL’s out-of-market package since 1994, shortly after the satellite service’s launch. As part of its deal with the NFL, DirecTV has agreed not to release subscriber numbers for the package, but industry sources believe that DirecTV annually signs up about 1.5 million subscribers.

The mobile application will make real-time highlights available to PDAs and cell phones with Internet access. SuperFan subscribers will have to log in to directv.com via their cell phones or PDAs and open a folder that will be created for each game.

Shanks added that 20 percent more Sunday Ticket games will be available in HD this year, going up to 180 from 150. The added games come from CBS, which has committed to produce five games a week in HD, up from last year’s three.

DirecTV also is planning several changes for its Red Zone channel, which will be made available in HD for the first time this fall. Red Zone alerts viewers to games when a team advances inside the 20-yard line. Through a deal with ProTrade, DirecTV is testing a “Win Probability” feature that will give a percentage chance that a given team will be victorious at a given point. The feature will be tested within the Red Zone during the preseason, and DirecTV expects to roll it out, in some form, during the season.

TV spokesman Marv

DirecTV also has changed its “player tracker” fantasy-based feature, allowing users to follow up to 18 players, the size of two fantasy football teams. Last year, the service allowed fans to track nine players.

DirecTV plans to tout Sunday Ticket’s enhancements for this year through ads featuring the character called “Marv,” a cantankerous, older man who doesn’t like any of Sunday Ticket’s innovations and will be used as a marketing tool against DirecTV’s cable operator rivals, who don’t have access to Sunday Ticket programming.

“We set Marv up as the personification of cable,” said Jon Gieselman, DirecTV’s senior vice president of advertising and PR. “He doesn’t like choice. He doesn’t like technology. He doesn’t like the added benefits of the SuperFan package, and he complains about all of it.”

DirecTV launched a multimedia campaign last week with “Marv” across TV, radio, online and print outlets. Gieselman wouldn’t disclose how much this year’s campaign is costing, only noting that it was similar to last year.

Deutsch is DirecTV’s ad agency of record and created the effort.

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