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NFL faces multi-billion dollar antitrust suit over its Sunday Ticket package

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NFL faces multi-billion dollar antitrust suit over its Sunday Ticket package


Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

A 2023 game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. A class action suit challenging the legality of the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package is set to have opening arguments Thursday.


New York
CNN
 — 

A class action case challenging the legality of the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, whose opening arguments are scheduled for Thursday, could shake up television rights deals in professional sports and the way teams make money.

The case, first brought in 2015, focuses on the NFL’s package of games outside of a local market that are not shown nationally on other networks. The suit says by restricting broadcasts of those “out-of-market” games to the Sunday Ticket package, the NFL is forcing customers who just want to watch one team or a small group of teams have to pay more.

“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,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued in a filing. “Instead, however, the teams have all forgone this option in favor of creating a more lucrative monopoly.”

The plaintiffs are seeking billions in possible damages, which could be tripled under antitrust law. The NFL argues that the current arrangement offers the broadest possible selection of games for fans at a good value.

Among the witnesses who could be called in the case are NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, team owners Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft as well as executives from various television networks and DirecTV, which had held the exclusive Sunday Ticket package until it lost it to Google-owned YouTube TV at the start of last season, at a reported cost of $2 billion a year. YouTube charges fans $449 a year for the package.

The case, being heard in federal court in Los Angeles, was dismissed by a district court in 2017, then reinstated by the US Court of Appeals in 2019. It is being argued by lawyers from Susman Godfrey, a major national firm that settled the case against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems for more than $787 million just before that case went to trial.

The NFL has been known to settle some high profile cases against it rather than having its practices disclosed and dissected in open court. Those include a $790 million settlement that ended a suit by plaintiffs in St. Louis who objected to the relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles in 2016 and a $765 million settlement reached in 2013 that set up a fund to compensate players who suffered brain injuries from concussions during playing days.



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