A leaked marketing survey suggests that DirecTV's popular but ultra-pricey NFL Sunday Ticket package might — repeat, might — wind up on set-top boxes like Apple TV, Boxee and Roku. Perhaps even more enticing is another option listed in the survey: a $20 Sunday Ticket weekend pass for those who'd rather not fork over $300-plus for the entire season.
Of course, a survey is just a survey, not a set-in-stone action plan. Still, the survey — unearthed by Engadget HD — is required reading for die-hard football fans who've been aching to stream games over their set-top boxes or pay week-to-week. Just don't get too excited (yet).
While the bloggers at Engadget don't have the survey questions themselves, they do have a grid that details the existing and potential Sunday Ticket plans about which viewers were quizzed.
Some of the pricing options in the pricing grid are familiar: for example, $53.99 a month for six months ($323.94 total) for "regular" NFL Sunday Ticket action delivered to your TV, or $300 ($50 a month for six months) for a digital Sunday Ticket subscription, slightly cheaper than the $350 I ponied up for streaming NFL Sunday Ticket to Go as a non-DirecTV user.
Not all that earth-shatteringly different so far, but the fine print at the bottom of the grid sure raised eyebrows: namely, a note stating that NFL Sunday Ticket video "can be viewed" on your TV "if it is connected to an Internet-connected Apple TV, Boxee, or Roku player" — or, indeed, "an Internet-connected Blu-ray player or Game Machine," presumably along the lines of an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3.
Currently, you can stream Sunday Ticket games only over a desktop Web browser or mobile apps for iOS (including both the iPhone and the iPad), Android, BlackBerry, WebOS and Windows Mobile — not over TV set-top boxes. (Net-savvy gridiron fans could always just hook up their laptops to a TV, of course, or do what I do: drag your big-screen desktop into the living room.)
The other interesting possibility raised by the leaked (and still unconfirmed) survey is a $20 option for "any weekend or weekends you choose" — meaning no need to cough up $300 and up for the entire season.
That would be a great option for NFL fans like … well, my wife and me, for starters. We happen to be Eagles fans living in New York City. The Eagles seem to end up on local TV here in the Big Apple almost every weekend (particularly this season), but not always — and I'd love to pay $20 only for those weekends when Gang Green isn't playing on one of our location stations. (As it happens, I went ahead at paid $350 to stream the full season of Sunday Ticket — which, granted, is still handy for watching other division matchups that aren't aired locally.)
As Engadget HD points out, set-top box access to Sunday Ticket would bring online NFL coverage close to par with MLB, the NBA, the NHL and other sports that already offer connected TV apps.
(It's worth noting, though, that NFL Sunday Ticket only offers afternoon games on Sunday, not NBC's "Sunday Night Football," ESPN's "Monday Night Football" or the NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football." NBC lets desktop users stream Sunday night games for free, but on Monday and Thursday nights, cord-cutters are out of luck.)
Anyway, we'll see what happens. DirectTV usually announces pricing and features for the coming season in August, so we've probably got several months until any solid news surfaces.
Related: DirecTV survey hints at NFL Sunday Ticket on Apple TV, Boxee and Roku players? [Engadget HD]
— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.