The NFL’s TV partners, CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC are dropped from the Sunday Ticket lawsuit. Now NFL and DirecTV are the only defendants against the lawsuit. No exempted networks will have any financial liability in this, but they are not completely free from the case.
The complainers range from bars and restaurants to individual customers. According to the complaint, many customers had to face unreasonable pricing and restrictive supply for NFL coverage. Rather than buying the game of one team, customers were forced to buy a full package. Several cases regarding this are consolidated into a single case.
In their federal lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that, “No other major sports league in America has such a drastic, total elimination of competition in the broadcasting of its games. While Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the National Basketball League (NBA) have each allocated markets geographically and pooled so-called out-of-market rights, none has agreed to centralize control and sale of all broadcast rights.” The case is filed in the Central District of California.
As per the complaint, NFL “has agreed not to avail themselves of cable, satellite, or Internet distribution channels individually. In the absence of an agreement, each team would have an incentive to distribute its games nationally in these channels. Given the relatively low cost of internet streaming and satellite and cable television carriage, each team acting independently would offer their games at a competitive price to anybody in the country who wanted to watch that particular team. Instead, however, the Teams have all forgone this option in favor of creating a more lucrative monopoly.”
A key question that arises in the case is whether distribution of out-of-market games comes under federal broadcast antitrust exemption. If the case favors the complainers, then it brings out great changes in the way football fans watch their games. For example, if the New Orleans Saints fans want to watch only the home games, then they would be able to subscribe for all the New Orleans Saints games instead of buying the entire Sunday Ticket package.
Popular teams, thus, will be able to gather a lot more money by selling their rights to a wider market. At the same time, it will be a big drawback for the unpopular teams.