The National Football League distributes its live game programming via multiple distribution channels, one of them being NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube TV, which on October 29th – Week 8 of the NFL season – was plagued by poor video quality. Subscribers expressed their disappointment over social media. But despite concerns over whether YouTube TV was up for the task at the outset of the season, no such issues had been reported until Week 8.
Against that backdrop, an Oddspedia report said that more than one third of NFL fans watch games over illegal streaming services. “Although 39% of people surveyed said they use paid streaming services to watch football,not far behind at 35% were folks using an illegal streaming service,” said Oddspedia.
About half of 3,200 NFL fans surveyed admitted to using an illegal service at least once, said Oddspedia.
Illegal use is estimated to cost the NFL and its media partners hundreds of millions per year in lost revenue. According to the survey, Cinncinnati Bengals fans are the NFL’s biggest offenders, with over half (51.6%) admitting to regularly using illegal streams to watch games. Fans of the San Francisco 49ers ranked last with just 13.8% having regularly used illegal streams. Piracy Monitor guesses that the low rate in the Bay Area could reflect the affluence of that region.
Priced out of the market?
At the halfway point of the 2023 NFL season, YouTube TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket would still cost $224 for the remainder of the season. With three months left, which includes playoffs and the Super Bowl at the beginning of February 2024, that’s around $80/month.
Oddspedia says that works out to about $22 per game on NFL Sunday Ticket or NFL RedZone, if the teams make it to the Super Bowl.But based on the Oddspedia survey, NFL fans are willing to spend just $22 per month on a streaming service, according to the survey – for just their own team.
Just add fragmentation
78% of the Oddspedia survey respondents went to pirate streaming services for convenience, and football is anything but convenient for devoted fans. YouTube TV only gives access to out-of-market NFL games. To make up the difference, football fans must take additional streaming services.
Paramount+ and the Fox Sports streaming services and apps give access to local games broadcast (only) on the CBS and Fox networks respectively. Peacock offers (only) NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Another option is to go with a virtual MVPD (pay TV) service, at a price point similar to traditional pay TV.
Then there’s “Other”
Only four percent of respondents said that they went with illegal services for reasons other than price and convenience. Earlier we proposed that video quality might be a driver of piracy, but the Oddspedia survey indicated otherwise. That 4% is comprised of people who don’t have a TV, don’t have any other viewing options, or don’t want to experience buffering (e.g. video quality errors).
Oddspedia also noted that sports wagering and casino streaming sites provide further football viewing alternatives for registered users.
So to answer the question posed in our headline: “Could video errors in YouTube TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket be driving piracy?” Well, yes; but only for a tiny fraction of the overall audience. Mostly it’s a resounding NO, given (high) price and (lack of) convenience.
3,200 American football fans were surveyed in August 2023. 70% identifed as male. The average age of the respondents was 42.
To pay or not to pay: The battle between legal and illegal NFL streaming. Article and survey results. October 27, 2023. Oddspedia USA
Fans were furious that YouTube TV and NFL Sunday Ticket had serious issues during Week 8. Article. October 29, 2023. By Andrew Joseph. ForTheWin.com
Why it matters
It’s instructive that just 26 percent of viewers surveyed by Oddspedia watched games over pay TV (that’s the total of cable, antenna and satellite combined). So the writing is on the wall for pay TV industry stalwarts, that the pay TV model is waning – and if you listen carefully to the major pay TV operators intentions to transition to broadband-only over time, they agree.
Plus the expense and lack of convenience. “NFL Sunday Ticket costs a whopping $449 for the season ($489 if you also want NFL RedZone), which feels like theft for many. This makes it easier than ever for fans to rationalize using piracy and illegal streaming sites, rather than shelling out more money on top of all the other ways they support their team (think merch and watch party food and beverages),” said Oddspedia.