Central California Named New Home for NFL Sunday Ticket Litigation

On December 8, 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated and assigned multiple antitrust lawsuits challenging the NFL’s exclusive broadcasting agreement with Direct TV to Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell in the Central District of California.

The antitrust suits challenge the agreement the NFL has with DirectTV, granting DirectTV exclusive access to all NFL games. Because of the exclusive agreement, football fans can only view out-of-market games if they have Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package. Surely, fans who do not have Sunday Ticket must know the frustration of turning on your TV hoping to watch a game just to find out that it is not one of the limited games being aired by your cable provider. This forces a lot of fans, especially those with loyalties to teams located in an outside market, to subscribe to DirectTV and pay for Sunday Ticket. The exclusive agreement has been the basis of multiple lawsuits, which argue that the agreement disadvantages competing providers and allows DirectTV to charge “unreasonably high prices” for its services.

JPML consolidated more than 20 suits challenging the anti-competitive effects of the DirectTV and NFL deal and assigned the cases to Judge O’Connell in the Central District of California. The panel believed that this was a proper district for the litigation because DirectTV has a headquarters located within the district and Judge O’Connell had related cases pending before her. All defendants and a majority of the responding plaintiffs have supported the venue of the litigation, as outlined in the order. Further, the panel has reported that consolidation of the cases is proper because each involve a putative class of nationwide subscribers and involve questions relating to the exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket agreement, its effect on the marketplace, and whether there are any pro-competitive justifications for the deal.

The panel’s transfer order states, “we find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”

Until the court comes to a resolution, football fanatics will have to continue relying on DirectTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package if they wish to watch out-of-market match-ups.

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