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NFL Hoping Supreme Court Takes Case on Sunday Ticket

Stephanie Sengwe

Revisions to the NFL Sunday ticket may be coming courtesy of the Supreme Court as DirecTV and the league continue their long-running class-action case. According to ESPN, the high court may decide to take on the case as early as this week.

Lawyers for the NFL and DirecTV are asking the Supreme Court to review the decision made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August when “it reopened a class-action suit alleging that the Sunday Ticket package requires consumers to ‘pay more for games than they want’ and violates federal antitrust statutes,” ESPN said.

NFL’s Sunday Ticket, offered by DirecTV, allows viewers to experience the league’s out-of-market games or games that are broadcast via subscription service to viewers whose local markets do not air them. The antitrust issue comes into play since the NFL currently partners with DirecTV to exclusively broadcast out-of-market games via the Sunday Ticket package. So, if fans want to follow one specific team that is out-of-market, they still have to pay $293 for the entire season.

“The result is that on football Sunday afternoons, no more than three NFL games are aired on broadcast television in a particular market. If fans want to watch a live broadcast of a Sunday afternoon game not being aired locally, they have to watch it on Sunday Ticket,” ESPN explained.

Those who are against the current NFL Sunday Ticket model argue that viewers are “being deprived” of getting access from a regional sports network or cheaper streaming service, which would be possible if NFL teams were not barred from broadcasting their own games.

On their part, the NFL and DirecTV are arguing that NFL games are simply a joint venture between the teams and the NFL itself. As such, the league’s control of the dissemination of the broadcasts is not an antitrust violation.

Time will tell how this legal battle affects pricing — if the customers get their way, wider negotiations among individual teams could drive down prices for games — but for now, DirecTV currently offers the Sunday Ticket for a full-season price of $293.94, or, for the Sunday Ticket Max, a full-season price of $395.94.

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