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Out-of-Market NFL Football: Is Sunday Ticket Worth the Money?

Written by Derek Fleming

For the 2023 season, NFL Fans can watch their favorite team out-of-market by adding NFL Sunday Ticket to a YouTube TV subscription, or by signing up through YouTube TV al a carte, but is Sunday Ticket worth the $349 price tag?

How to watch NFL Sunday Ticket
Table of Contents
  1. What NFL games can you watch on Sunday Ticket?
  2. Understanding the NFL’s out-of-market TV rights
  3. How to know if you are an “out-of-market” NFL fan
  4. How often will your NFL team be featured on national TV?
  5. Is NFL Sunday Ticket worth the money?

Years ago, when I lived in NYC, my sister and I would walk to a local bar and sheepishly ask the bartender to turn on the Detroit Lions game using their NFL Sunday Ticket satellite subscription. Today, we can watch every Lions game from New York using only WiFi, here’s how.

New for the 2023 NFL season, YouTube TV owns the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, the NFL’s premium out-of-market package, and has made the lineup a streaming-only add-on for $349 per season with a YouTube TV subscription.

NFL fans willing to pay a premium price of $449 per season can sign up for NFL Sunday Ticket without also subscribing to YouTube TV. Keep in mind that buying NFL Sunday Ticket doesn’t mean all of your football viewing needs are met. There are major holes in Sunday Ticket coverage, notably for national NFL games. In this Sunday Ticket review, I will break down whether buying Sunday Ticket is worth it in your market this NFL season.

What NFL games can you watch on Sunday Ticket?

Sunday Ticket is a platform that features out-of-market NFL regular season games that air regionally. Before you shell out $349 for Sunday Ticket, be sure that the package carries the games you want to watch.

You can watch:

  • Out-of-market 1 PM games
  • Out-of-market 4 PM games

You can’t watch:

Understanding the NFL’s out-of-market TV rights

Think of the NFL’s out-of-market TV rights as expensive leftovers, very expensive leftovers.

The Main dishes in the NFL kitchen, the local and regional TV rights (1 PM and 4 PM games), as well as the national games, have been sold off to some of the world’s largest media companies for over 100 billion dollars.

The NFL’s out-of-market TV rights (branded as Sunday Ticket), as well as the mobile rights, are the leftovers. They aren’t as sought after as the prime time and regional games, but they still have a lot of value.

The NFL kept its mobile rights and packaged them into NFL+, and sold the out-of-market TV rights to YouTube TV for 2 billion dollars.

The thing NFL fans need to understand about NFL Sunday Ticket is the coverage is limited to the leftovers only, any “Main Dish” programming will be blacked out on Sunday Ticket. This means that big games, like Monday Night Football, won’t be available on Sunday Ticket.

As a practical matter, this isn’t an issue for fans that subscribe to another live TV streaming service, like YouTube TV or Fubo, because these platforms carry ESPN, and the local affiliates that air marquee NFL games.

How to know if you are an “out-of-market” NFL fan

Before paying for Sunday Ticket, be sure that you are an actual out-of-market fan for the team you want to follow.

Because the NFL televises games based on a flexible regional map, with borders that vary from week to week, it’s hard to draw the boundaries of in-market vs. out-of-market for television viewers.

If you are trying to determine whether you live out-of-market for your favorite NFL team, it helps to understand the difference between a regional and local NFL fan.

Local NFL fans (don’t buy Sunday Ticket)

Local NFL fans live in the same TV market as their favorite team. For example, viewers in Oakland County, Michigan are local Lions fans even though they live outside of the Detroit city limits because they get Detroit TV stations and the Detroit newspapers land on their doorsteps in the morning. An Oakland County Lions fan wouldn’t want to buy NFL Sunday Ticket because they will already get Lions games every Sunday on WJBK-TV FOX 2 Detroit.

Regional NFL fans (don’t buy Sunday Ticket)

However, travel 4 hours north to Traverse City, MI and the same principle applies. While they are not local fans, NFL fans in Traverse City will still get regional coverage of Detroit Lions games. Just like the fan in the Detroit suburbs, there is no need for an NFL fan in Traverse City to buy Sunday Ticket to watch Lions games. As a regional fan, they will get coverage every Sunday on over-the-air TV.

local vs. regional nfl fans and thursday night football

The main difference between local and regional fans is the regional fan will have to buy Amazon Prime to watch Thursday Night Football, while the local fan can tune in on a local affiliate.

Hybrid NFL regional fans (maybe buy Sunday Ticket)

In many markets that appear to be out-of-market, NFL Sunday Ticket is not worth the money.

For example, a Dallas Cowboy fan living in Colorado might not get every Cowboys game on their local FOX affiliate, however, the Cowboys will appear often enough in national and regional games to ensure excellent coverage. These fans are what I will call “hybrid regional fans.” On many Sundays, the Cowboys fan in Denver will get access to a Dallas game, either on national TV or on local affiliates, but it won’t be every Sunday.

This fan vacillates back and forth between a regional fan and an out-of-market NFL fan. Whether they buy NFL Sunday Ticket is a function of how they feel about missing some games, or going to a local bar to watch the game. If having coverage of every game from home is a must, then it is worth it for the hybrid regional fan to buy Sunday Ticket.

Out-of-market NFL fans (buy Sunday Ticket)

The NFL fans that will get the most value from NFL Sunday Ticket are the ones that live far away from their favorite team in a market with a competing franchise that will take up the TV slots each week.

For example, the Jets fan who has recently moved to Miami. On Sundays in Miami, the Dolphins will be featured on the local CBS affiliate, WFOR-TV CBS 4 Miami. NFL Sunday Ticket was designed to help this Jets fan watch the Jets instead of the Dolphins.

Another factor to consider before buying Sunday Ticket is how often your team will appear on easy to watch national broadcasts.

Last season, these 13 teams were featured in the maximum number of five primetime games, which means even out-of-market fans could tune in to a third of the season on national broadcasts without Sunday Ticket:

A note for Buccaneers and Jets fans

The retirement of Tom Brady and the signing of Aaron Rodgers by the Jets will have an impact on the primetime TV coverage for both teams. Without Tom Brady, the Bucs will likely be featured in national NFL games less during the regular season, while the Jets will get more air time, especially as fans see how exciting the combination of Rodgers and former Ohio State star WR Garret Wilson can be.

Is NFL Sunday Ticket worth the money?

$349 for subscribers, and $449 for non-subscribers, is a hefty price tag, but you can’t blame YouTube TV for raising prices after dropping 2 billions on the rights to Sunday Ticket.

NFL Sunday Ticket is worth the money for three types of NFL fans:

  • Pure out-of-market fans who want to watch their team’s entire regular season.
  • Hybrid regional fans who aren’t content missing any games, or going to a local bar to watch.
  • Hard-core NFL fans who want to “channel surf” and have access to all of the NFL games on any given Sunday.

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