Anyone with cable or a live TV streaming service shouldn’t have any trouble watching the Super Bowl on February 11.
The game’s widespread availability is among the reasons over half of Americans tuned in for last year’s matchup and why this year’s contest will likely be the most-watched television event of 2024.
But for many NFL fans, particularly those who live in a different state than the team they root for, watching football is rarely so easy. And I’m not just talking about the recent Chiefs-Dolphins playoff game that was available exclusively on Peacock.
Unless these “out of market” fans shell out hundreds of dollars a year, they’re at risk of missing several of their team’s games during the regular season.
As a Green Bay Packers fan who lives in New York, I’m familiar with this conundrum. And I’m not alone: A 2013 analysis by the sports apparel company Fanatics found that 74% of NFL fans root for teams outside their home state.
Fortunately, the Packers are a popular team, among the reasons some of their games aired nationally this season on Sunday and Monday nights, and on Thanksgiving Day. Even based in New York, I could catch these games with a YouTube TV subscription. YouTube TV also provided access to a few Sunday afternoon Packers games on Fox.
But several Packers games fell outside the NFL’s regional coverage map, often leaving me with no choice but to watch Daniel Jones and the New York Giants.
Yes, I had access to NFL Redzone through YouTube TV, but that just provided me with occasional peeks at the game I was missing. Indeed, there are plenty of sports bars in New York, but finding one that has access to a Packers game — and will turn it on — is easier said than done.
I prefer to watch from the comfort of my couch, where it’s much easier to focus on the broadcast. Though I’ve heard that VPNs could help me get around regional broadcast restrictions, using one sounds complicated and morally dubious — and would be another subscription to add to my monthly bill.
Sunday Ticket isn’t the solution for all fans
That brings us to NFL Sunday Ticket.
As far I can tell, subscribing to the Sunday Ticket package is the only way for fans to guarantee access to every out-of-market game. After last season, the exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket transferred from DirecTV to YouTube TV, which made it accessible to fans who didn’t have a satellite dish.
Even Sunday Ticket doesn’t cover everything; I’d still need to keep YouTube TV for some local and nationally televised Packers games, but between those two options, I’d be pretty much set.
But here’s the problem: Sunday Ticket doesn’t come cheap.
If you were already paying over $70 a month for YouTube TV, you could have gotten Sunday Ticket this season for $349 a year — some fans snagged a discounted price during the presale. If you didn’t have YouTube TV, it cost you $449.
Password sharing would only have gotten you so far — Sunday Ticket only allows streams in two locations at once.
If the NFL turns to more streaming-exclusive games, like it’s done with Amazon and Peacock, even more accessibility and cost hurdles could arise for fans.
A single-team Sunday Ticket package, one which provides only one team’s out-of-market games at a discounted price, sounds like a logical option.
The NBA is already doing this. NBA League Pass provides all out-of-market games for roughly $100 a season, while NBA Team Pass provides a single team’s out-of-market games for $90.
If the NFL rolled out a single-team package, it might see a ratings boost, drawing in fans who couldn’t find their team’s game — or turned to piracy as an alternative. But the league, a multi-billion-dollar business, might have little reason to change course.
In 2023, the NFL accounted for 93 of the 100 most-watched television broadcasts, per Nielsen. And despite the cost, over one million people pay for Sunday Ticket.
I guess I should start saving for next season.