By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - DirecTV is considering offering different pricing plans for the NFL Sunday Ticket package and is asking consumers about how much they would pay for new versions of its exclusive football package, including a cheaper Internet-only option.
Investors and analysts are watching to see whether DirecTV will renew its contract with the National Football League, estimated to be worth $1 billion annually. The current agreement is due to expire at the end of the 2014 season. Google was reportedly talking to the NFL about stepping in and buying the rights for itself, according to media reports.
The current DirecTV offer allows subscribers to watch football games outside of their local markets on Sundays. The exclusive package, which costs subscribers about $300 a year, is an important tool for DirecTV to attract new subscribers and the company has said about 2 million people receive the service.
BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield posted the DirecTV survey in a research note on the Internet on Friday. The survey asks DirecTV customers whether they would be interested in a mobile and online NFL Sunday ticket that would be cheaper and more accessible than its current product.
A DirecTV spokesman confirmed the survey's authenticity.
In the questionnaire, DirecTV offers options as low as $26 per month for the Internet-only version. It also proposed a "My Team" package where subscribers would choose their favorite team and just have access to those games every Sunday, paying less than they would for the entire league lineup.
DirecTV is tinkering with its pricing and examining the business model of its NFL deal to gauge whether it is worth securing a new contract with the league, Greenfield said.
"They're trying to figure out whether there's a way to market a digital product and reach a wider audience if they price it cheaper or different," he said.
DirecTV began offering online packages for Sunday Ticket in 2007, but did not promote them heavily.
It has also allowed customers the option to stream Sunday Ticket through Sony's PlayStation video game console.
While a company spokesman declined to comment on current negotiations, DirecTV, a longtime critic of escalating sports programming costs, sounded upbeat on its chances to renew its contract on its quarterly earnings call with analysts.
Chief Executive Mike White said on the August 1 call that DirecTV was having "constructive discussions" with the NFL and "Sunday ticket will stay with us for the long haul."
(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)