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AT&T eying NFL after DirecTV purchase

LOS ANGELES — One of the hidden benefits of AT&T's $48.5 billion planned purchase of DirecTV is that it raises the possibility of making DirecTV's programming crown jewel, NFL Sunday Ticket, more broadly available on mobile devices.

Making exclusive live NFL game programming available on AT&T smartphones could trump Verizon's deal with the NFL for certain live game streams on its phones, because NFL Sunday Ticket involves most NFL games, not just a handful on certain nights of the week.

Verizon's NFL Mobile deal enters its fifth season later this year after the two sides signed a multi-year extension last June.

For $5 a month, Verizon's NFL Mobile app allows live game streams on smartphones — not tablets — for Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night games. It will add local Sunday afternoon games this coming season.

DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket allows for live broadcasts of most NFL games around the country. That allows displaced fan to follow their favorite teams if they've moved.

A basic NFL Sunday Ticket subscription currently costs $240 for the season, on top of the price of a DirecTV subscription. But if you want to watch games on your computer, smartphone or tablet, you need to pay an additional $90 for NFL Sunday Ticket Max. Local games are subject to blackouts because of existing broadcast rights.

In owning DirecTV, AT&T could potentially make mobile access a perk for its wireless customers, the way subscribers now get family discounts to Beats Music's streaming service.

AT&T Inc. announced Sunday that it has agreed to buy satellite TV provider DirecTV for $48.5 billion, or $95 per share, in a deal both companies described as transformational as they seek to take on cable companies and online video providers. The proposed combination, which is subject to regulatory approval, would allow the delivery of content to multiple screens — on living room TVs, PCs, tablets and mobile phones.

DirecTV CEO Michael White said he's "confident" that it can renew its Sunday Ticket deal with the NFL after it expires at the end of the upcoming season, but he stopped short of saying it would definitely be available on AT&T smartphones. He pointed out that DirecTV has sold NFL Sunday Ticket without a pay TV package, although it no longer does so. That package had been available on Sony's PlayStation.

However it's sold, it's clear that AT&T has major plans for NFL Sunday Ticket should the merger go through.