Unanswered Streaming Questions from YouTube’s NFL Sunday Ticket Deal
After nearly a year of waiting, football fans finally got the news that they had been waiting for on Thursday, as the NFL made it official: NFL Sunday Ticket is heading to YouTube TV starting in the 2023 season.
While the major question of where the league’s popular out-of-market package will land following the end of its nearly three-decade run on DIRECTV has finally been answered, there are still a lot of important issues that neither the NFL nor YouTube addressed in their initial statements on the new partnership.
We here at The Streamable will attempt to answer some of these questions to the best of our ability and will bring you all of the official news when it eventually becomes available.
Questions that have already been answered:
Will you have to sign-up for the full YouTube TV package just to be able to subscribe to Sunday Ticket?
No, you will not. Unlike DIRECTV, which required fans to opt into a contract for the full satellite service to get the Sunday Ticket, YouTube TV will be offering the out-of-market plan to both YouTube TV customers and via its a la carte YouTube Primetime Channels store.
Will YouTube TV Still Broadcast NFL RedZone?
Yes, as part of the streamer’s deal with the league, it was announced that the carriage agreement for both NFL Network and NFL RedZone had been extended. There was no word on whether or not YouTube will continue with a Sunday Ticket-specific version of the whip-around show, as DIRECTV did, but it would seem unlikely when it already has the Scott Hanson-led, NFL Network-produced version on the service.
How Much Will Sunday Ticket Cost? Will YouTube TV Subscribers Get a Discount?
YouTube did not disclose its preliminary pricing plans for the package, but we know that the NFL’s contracts with CBS and FOX require that the Sunday Ticket subscription be at a premium price in order to avoid cannibalizing the games that air on the broadcast networks in local markets.
Sunday Ticket is comprised of contests that air on CBS and FOX during the 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET windows, so those two NFL partners have a vested interest in making sure that the Sunday Ticket subscription is priced high enough to keep at least some folks from tuning out of the local games. This requirement was reportedly one of the issues that Apple had in its negotiations with the league.
For much of the year, the tech company was seen as the likely landing spot for the package, but as the two sides got further along in negotiations, there were reportedly a number of stumbling blocks that could not be overcome. One of them was that Apple wanted to offer Sunday Ticket for free to all subscribers to Apple TV+ — which costs just $6.99 per month. Because of the league’s contractual obligations to CBS and FOX, that wasn’t possible, so it changed the equation for Apple.
So, it is likely to expect that YouTube TV will keep the price for Sunday Ticket in the same ballpark as DIRECTV. For the current season, the satellite provider has charged $293.94 for the out-of-market games on their own, and $395.94 for the games, the DIRECTV version of NFL RedZone, and the DIRECTV Fantasy Zone channel.
YouTube could decide to raise or lower the price if it wanted, but it seems unlikely that it would change dramatically. However, it does seem likely that new and existing YouTube TV customers will get a discount on the package if they sign up, similar to how Apple TV+ is handling its MLS Season Pass.
When the first season of Apple’s 10-year deal with Major League Soccer starts in February, the domestic soccer package will be available to all consumers for $14.99 per month during the season or $99 for the entire campaign. However, fans who are subscribed to Apple TV+ will get a special price of $12.99 monthly or $79 for the season. While not a dramatic discount, it could serve as a model for how to handle these dual-pronged subscription options moving forward.
Will YouTube TV Offer Individual Team Subscriptions?
Again, Google did not provide any guidance on whether or not it would allow fans to sign up for team-specific Sunday Ticket packages starting in the fall. While the option would be incredibly attractive to fans who live outside of their favorite team’s home market and otherwise have to hope that their squad will have some good nationally televised games, it seems unlikely to happen any time soon.
Both Major League Baseball and the NBA offer individual team subscription options to MLB.tv and NBA League Pass respectively, but the nature of those leagues makes that a much different proposition. With 162 games in a baseball season and 82 in basketball, the amount of inventory allows for siloed-off subscriptions to make sense financially for the platforms. However, with just 17 games — not including any nationally televised contests that would not be available via Sunday Ticket — for each team, it might not be worth it for YouTube TV to offer a cheaper subscription option that would pull people away from the full package.
So, while it is certainly possible, if YouTube does follow the NBA and MLB’s lead and offer a team-specific plan, it would likely not be at a very substantial discount, incentivizing fans to just pony up the rest of the money for the full package.
Will YouTube TV Introduce Mosaic Mode in Time for Sunday Ticket?
In August, reports began circulating that YouTube TV was working on launching a new picture-in-picture feature that would allow viewers to pull together streams from up to four channels to create a unique viewing experience.
This feature, which will reportedly be called “Mosaic Mode,” is ideal for sports fans who want to track multiple games at once, which is exactly what Sunday Ticket is best used for. Currently, the only live TV streamer that offers a similar product is fuboTV with its “Multi-View” and “FanView” features.
Given that this has been in the works for a while at YouTube, it would seem like it has a very good chance of being launched in plenty of time for the 2023 NFL season, perhaps timed with March Madness or the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Will Sunday Ticket Games Be in 4K on YouTube TV?
Now that Sunday Ticket will be departing its satellite home for streaming, one of the questions that has come up is whether or not YouTube will be upping the video quality to the increasingly popular 4K resolution for its broadcasts. Unfortunately, the answer to this one is almost certainly no.
As noted above, Sunday Ticket simply repackages the games broadcast in local markets on CBS and FOX, and unless those networks begin broadcasting games in 4K, YouTube TV won’t have access to the enhanced video for the contests. To date, the only NFL game this season that FOX has aired in 4K was its nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, which would not be included on the Sunday Ticket, and CBS has not broadcast any games in 4K.
Of course, this question is likely tied to a common concern that YouTube TV customers have had about the bit rates of NFL broadcasts. However, that should not be as much of an issue via Sunday Ticket as it is through the streamer’s regular channel offerings. Through the traditional, streaming linear channels, YouTube TV must pull together hundreds of individual local broadcasts in order to offer the specific in-market content for each specific region. However, with Sunday Ticket, the service’s lift will be much smaller as it will only need to stream the four to eight games airing during any given window.
So, while games will likely remain in 1080i resolution at best, there is a legitimate chance that the streams will be markedly better than what is seen on YouTube TV’s standard offerings.
Will DIRECTV STREAM Add NFL Network and NFL RedZone?
While this one is obviously not a specific YouTube TV question, it absolutely is part of the discussion now that Sunday Ticket is leaving DIRECTV. As noted above, since 2005, DIRECTV has had its own version of NFL RedZone hosted by Andrew Siciliano, meaning that the satellite provider did not have any need — on either its traditional or streaming platform — for the NFL Network-produced version hosted by Hanson.
However, now that DIRECTV is losing Sunday Ticket, that does seem to open the door for NFL Network and its version of RedZone to join DIRECTV’s offerings. As we saw with the carriage extension with YouTube, these two channels are a package deal, and neither is currently available on DIRECTV’s streaming service DIRECTV STREAM. While the company has not made any announcements about the future of its football offerings, it would make sense that it would like to keep something akin to its current NFL presence available to subscribers, and having RedZone would be the closest thing.
So, while it might not be announced until sometime in the spring or summer of 2023, it is probably a 65/35 chance that DIRECTV and/or DIRECTV STREAM will introduce the channels in time for next football season. However, it would likely behoove the company to announce it sooner rather than later in order to stave off even a tiny portion of customers who might be looking to cancel their service once the regular season ends.
YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service with more than 60 channels for $72.99/month. This plan includes local channels, 32 of the top 35 cable channels, and regional sports networks (RSNs) in select markets. The service includes an unlimited DVR.
With the recent addition of Viacom channels (BET, MTV, Comedy Central, etc.) to the service, they are only without Hallmark and A+E Networks (Lifetime, History, A&E).
They recently added NFL Network and new Sports Plus add-on which include channels like NFL RedZone for $11 a month.
YouTube TV offers select 4K content, including some live sports and on-demand shows, as part of their 4K Plus add-on. The 4K Plus add-on is $9.99 a month and also includes offline downloads and unlimited streams on your home network.
If you want a cheaper service with many of the entertainment channels on YouTube TV, you can subscribe to Philo which includes A+E, Discovery, Viacom, Hallmark, and other channels for just $20 a month after a 7-Day Free Trial.