As first appeared in Boxscore
By Aron Solomon
As reported by Law360, the trial for a class action against the National Football League’s (NFL) Sunday Ticket broadcast package has been postponed to June 6, 2024.
The case, first filed all the way back in 2015, alleges that the NFL’s exclusive agreement with DirecTV for the Sunday Ticket package violates antitrust laws by restricting competition and consumer choice.
The trial, expected to last about six weeks, will address the non-competitive practices related to the Sunday Ticket package, which allows fans to watch out-of-market NFL games.
If the NFL loses the case, it will absolutely massive implications for the league’s broadcasting and streaming arrangements which is why, for any football fan, the eventual outcome of this drawn-out case is very important.
As attorney Robert Maider observes, “The way things work now, the NFL is the gatekeeper for all broadcasting rights. They prevent consumers from being able to watch games on multiple channels, which reduces the number of free locals games like we used to have. If the NFL eventually loses this case, more free NFL games will be available for fans to watch.”
The lawsuit, certified as a class action over the NFL’s objection, includes all 32 NFL teams as defendants. Key figures such as Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Roger Goodell are among those who could be called to testify in the trial.
The legal issues at the heart of this case include antitrust violations, specifically the alleged anti-competitive nature of the NFL’s exclusive agreement with DirecTV for the Sunday Ticket package.
The plaintiffs argue that this agreement restricts consumer choice and prevents fair competition in the market for out-of-market NFL game broadcasts. The case also involves complex issues related to broadcasting rights, competition law, and the impact of the NFL’s agreements on consumer access to games.
The trial will take a deep dive into the details of the NFL’s broadcasting contracts, the impact of these contracts on consumer options, and the potential implications for the future of NFL game broadcasting and streaming.
The class action against the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package involves a significant amount of money, with projected damages in the ballpark of $6.1 billion, according to Sportico.
As someone who loves to follow not only the game of professional football, but also the business end of things, this case is remarkably intriguing.
One of the themes often discussed on SiriusXM’s NFL Radio, where many of the most enthusiastic football fans get daily news, is how difficult it is to piece together a viewing package if you live in the U.S.
You can watch some NFL games in the U.S. on various networks like CBS, FOX, and NBC, covering local, primetime, and postseason matches. NFL Network, NFL RedZone, and NFL+ bring more action with live games and audio. Streaming services like NBC’s Peacock have joined the game, making the experience a sometimes confusing and almost always expansive mess.
I remember a recent conversation on NFL Radio where the host was enumerating all of the costs to follow games this season. All added up, it was well over $500 for the season. Even one of this season’s first-round wild card playoff games was available only on Peacock streaming.
If this is what it costs and how complicated it is for one fan to follow a season’s worth of games, there’s clearly something here for a court to fix next summer.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.