NFL Sunday Ticket
Did you grow up a Chicago Bears fan, but now find yourself living in Dallas? A Philadelphia Eagles fan now living in Phoenix? A Cleveland Browns fan living in Tampa? Do you play fantasy football and want to keep tabs on all of your players throughout the day? Are you simply tired of only seeing the Cowboys, Giants, or Jets in the featured doubleheader game? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, NFL Sunday Ticket might just be for you.
NFL Sunday Ticket includes the live broadcast of every non-primetime game and more. The Game Mix Channel shows up to 8 games at a time on a single screen. The RedZone Channel takes you to every scoring play and key drive as they happen. Game replays, in a condensed format, are shown every Monday and Tuesday, and are available with highlights on-demand for the rest of the week. You can track the stats of every player on your fantasy team, and keep real-time scores and stats for one or more games on screen while you watch another game. And for the occasional bathroom break, Sunday Ticket To-Go is an optional feature which streams games to your PC or smart phone. Forget leaving the house on Sundays – for 6½ hours, you won’t even leave the living room.
Of course, the core of the package is the games themselves. Every game not available on the local channels is shown in HD and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound (you have to tune to your local Fox or CBS affiliate for games carried locally). You get the entire broadcast – you are not switched off of a 49-3 blowout in the 3rd quarter, and you’re not switched to “Heidi” just before a long-running game heads to overtime. Local blackout rules are also enforced – if your local team didn’t sell enough tickets to lift the NFL-mandated TV blackout, you won’t get the full broadcast on Sunday Ticket, either. In addition to every game, the Game Mix Channel shows up to 8 games on screen at once (unfortunately, you don’t get to choose which 8). You can hear audio from each game by highlighting it with the directional buttons on your remote. Blackout rules are also enforced on the Game Mix Channel – if a game is blacked out in its local market, it will not be shown on the Game Mix Channel anywhere in the country.
Most of us don’t have 11 or 12 receivers or TVs to keep every game on at the same time, so if your favorite team isn’t playing right now, or they’re just boring and terrible, you’ll find yourself surfing through each game. This is the basic idea behind the RedZone Channel. The RedZone Channel takes you to every key play and drive as they happen, sometimes even splitting the screen between two different games. The host, Andrew Siciliano, sets up the scene in each game before switching to the game’s feed, then lets the game’s announcers handle the call. Siciliano is so good in this role that I’d probably prefer him to most of the guys actually doing play-by-play for the network broadcasts. I have to warn you, though – once you put on the RedZone Channel, hours disappear as though they were a couple of minutes. There are no commercials and no real breaks (there are maybe 30 seconds each week where EVERY game is in halftime). The action is constant, and when one game goes to commercial, the RedZone Channel switches to another game or catches up with highlights.
If you didn’t get enough football on Sunday, you can watch entire replays on Monday and Tuesday. “Short Cuts” are 30-minute replays of (almost) every play of a game, starting with the snap of the ball and continuing until the whislte blows the play dead. You’ll miss the kneel-downs at the end of a half, commercials, halftime, and all the witty banter and hyperbole from the announcers between plays, but you get all the substance. For subscribers with DVRs, highlights and Short Cut replays are also available on-demand until the kickoff of the first game of the next week.
Fantasy Football is huge, and if you play, you can track stats for up to 18 players in real-time. Alerts tell you when one of your players is in position to make a key play or just broke a long touchdown. You can also see real-time scores and stats from one or more games on-screen while watching another game. You can even see real-time divisional and wildcard standings!
For those of you who are not DirecTV subscribers, have to rush the kid to the emergency room, found out that the wife designated Sunday afternoon to take you shopping for drapes, or just need to keep an eye on your game while you’re dodging traffic on the highway, Sunday Ticket To-Go streams broadcasts of every game to your PC, tablet, or smart phone. You can watch any single game, the RedZone Channel, or split the screen 2 or 4 ways, choosing the games you want to see (and the audio you want to hear), including the RedZone Channel.
In the United States, the full NFL Sunday Ticket package is available exclusively through DirecTV (other satellite and cable carriers offer it in Canada, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean). The current prices are a one-time payment of $334.95 or monthly payments of $66.99/month for 5 months. Sunday Ticket To-Go can be added to a full subscription for $9.99/month. DirecTV has decided not to bill for Sunday Ticket while the NFL and its players are involved in a labor standoff, deferring billing until the labor situation is resolved (if games are missed, they will only bill for games played). If you’re not a DirecTV subscriber, you can get Sunday Ticket To-Go for $350 for the season. The RedZone Channel is also available on several satellite and cable carriers, including Dish Network, Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, and Verizon FiOS. Prices vary, and often, the RedZone Channel is bundled with other sports channels as part of a programming tier.
If you’re a football fan, and especially if you’re a fan of an out-of-town team or a big fantasy football player, NFL Sunday Ticket is the best thing to happen since Christmas morning. I would advise, however, that you empty yourself out before the early games kick off, because you’ll be in for a long afternoon.
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