NFL and DirecTV to Face $6 Billion Antitrust Lawsuit Over Sunday Ticket


In a landmark legal battle, the NFL and its former partner DirecTV are set to face a $6 billion class-action lawsuit over their "Sunday Ticket" package, which has long been a point of contention among fans and businesses. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2015, claims that the exclusive arrangement between the NFL and DirecTV forces consumers to purchase a bundled package of all out-of-market games rather than allowing them to select specific games, leading to inflated costs for viewers (Cord Cutters News) (Cord Cutters News) .

The lawsuit gained momentum when a U.S. District Judge in California granted it class-action status in February 2023. This decision divides the plaintiffs into two groups: individual residential subscribers and commercial establishments such as sports bars. The residential class comprises about 2.4 million members, while the commercial class includes around 48,000 entities.

The core of the plaintiffs' argument is that the NFL's exclusive contract with DirecTV, which lasted until the end of the 2022-23 season, constituted an antitrust violation. They allege that this arrangement prevented individual NFL teams from negotiating their own broadcast deals, effectively monopolizing the market and forcing fans to pay for a comprehensive package to view their preferred out-of-market games.

Despite several attempts by the NFL and DirecTV to dismiss the case, including a bid to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020, the lawsuit has persisted. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case in 2019, finding sufficient grounds to proceed based on the argument that the licensing deals were part of a conspiracy to limit the availability of NFL telecasts.

With the trial scheduled for June 2024, the stakes are high for the NFL. If the league loses, it could face damages exceeding $6 billion. This amount is based on claims that the NFL and DirecTV's practices forced consumers and businesses to pay more than necessary for access to NFL games .

In a significant shift, the NFL's Sunday Ticket package has now moved to Google’s YouTube TV starting with the 2023 season. This change reflects the growing trend towards streaming services and cord-cutting. However, the lawsuit remains focused on the period during which DirecTV held the exclusive rights.

The NFL has maintained its stance that the Sunday Ticket package does not violate antitrust laws, arguing that all NFL games are available through various means and that the package offers a comprehensive viewing experience. Despite these defenses, the court has found enough merit in the plaintiffs' claims to move forward with the trial.

As the trial date approaches, the outcome could have far-reaching implications for the way professional sports leagues negotiate broadcast rights and package deals. For now, the legal battle continues, with millions of dollars and the future structure of sports broadcasting on the line.


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