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NFL and DirecTV Face Possible Lawsuit as Supreme Court Rejects Sunday Ticket Case

Stephanie Sengwe

It looks like the NFL and DirecTV are back to square one. The two have been under fire since August 2019, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “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 reported.

In March, the companies took their case to the Supreme Court, hoping the decision would be overturned and they’d avoid a lawsuit. But on Monday, the court rejected the appeal, meaning that Sunday Ticket subscribers can proceed with their case.

Essentially, the decision forces the NFL and DirecTV to come to some sort of compromise with the bar and restaurant owners, who initially filed the case three years ago. If not, the case is going to take another several years before it reaches the Supreme Court again. By that time, it is believed that the NFL Sunday Ticket may not even be exclusively on DirecTV as it is now. With their contract ending after the 2021 season, it’s believed DirecTV will not renew the $1.5 billion agreement.

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.

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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