NFL and DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket” Subject of Antitrust Lawsuit

On Friday, October 16, 2015, five plaintiffs brought suit against the NFL, its 32 teams, DirecTV, CBS, NBC, Fox, and ESPN, alleging that current NFL broadcasting agreements violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

The plaintiffs allege that DirecTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” stifles competition and unfairly raises prices. Currently, the NFL Sunday Ticket — an out-of-market sports package — is the only way for viewers to watch regular season games outside of the limited games available on CBS, NBC, Fox, NFL Network, and ESPN. This, the plaintiffs argue, has “anticompetitive effects” because absent such an agreement, “each team acting independently would offer their games at a competitive price to anybody in the country who wanted to watch that particular team.”

Moreover, the plaintiffs claim that the NFL Sunday Ticket agreement with DirecTV “protects” the other five networks that contract with the NFL. The current broadcast arrangement is as follows: Fox and CBS currently rotate between which network airs a double header on Sunday; NFL Network airs “Thursday Night Football”; NBC airs “Sunday Night Football”; and ESPN airs “Monday Night Football.” The plaintiffs argue that this arrangement increases the value of these networks’ broadcasts. For example, the networks can “increase advertising revenue and demand higher affiliation or retransmission consent fees” from cable and satellite providers.

According to the complaint, DirecTV and the NFL “charge as much as $359 for a full season of NFL Sunday Ticket to individual subscribers, and anywhere between $1,458 to more than $120,000 for commercial subscribers.” The plaintiffs — NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers — consist of one individual and four sports bars, and are seeking class action certification.

 

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