In September, the NFL is set to hand over its prized Sunday Ticket package of weekly football games to Google’s subscription service YouTube, a monumental change that signifies just how far cord cutting and video streaming have come.
But behind such a sweeping change is a lawsuit that has been following the NFL and DirecTV, the former Sunday Ticket distributor, for some years.
The lawsuit claims the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package prevents individual teams from making their own broadcast deals, forcing fans and businesses like sports bars to pay for the entire package to watch a game out of the house. State. The NFL denied the allegation and asked for summary judgment and the case to be dismissed.
In February, a judge granted class-action status to the case, effectively separating it into two sets of class actions – one for individuals and a second for businesses. A trial is expected to begin in 2024. If the NFL and DirecTV lose, he could be on the hook for $6 billion.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Sunday Ticket legal drama.
What is the Sunday ticket?
Sunday Ticket is a package that until later this year was exclusively available to DirecTV customers. The package is essentially a buffet of all out-of-market NFL games on Sundays, with local games broadcast through different offers and networks. It costs a few hundred dollars for households and a few thousand dollars for commercial establishments like bars or restaurants.
How did it start?
In 2015, a proposed class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of San Francisco pub The Mucky Duck against the NFL and DirecTV, which had just re-signed an agreement to remain in partnership the previous year. Mucky Duck claimed the league was charging excessive rates to broadcast out-of-market games through DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package.
The deal meant there was less competition for out-of-market game streaming, the plaintiff argued.
While the lawsuit stemmed from a bar association, the class action proposal meant that many other parties joined.
What is the size of this costume?
There are 2.4 million people in the residential class action and 48,000 in the commercial class.
It’s a lot of people.
The NFL is quite popular.
Why target the NFL?
The original lawsuit argued that the arrangement between DirecTV and the NFL was unique in the big four professional sports. The other three, the NBA, NHL, and MLB, don’t have an exclusive agreement with a single provider that offers out-of-market games.
What are the NFL and DirecTV saying?
The defendants deny that Sunday Ticket violates antitrust laws and have argued that the case does not provide evidence to support this claim.
Over the years, the NFL and DirecTV have tried to have the case dismissed or sent to arbitration.
They actually succeeded at one point. In 2017, a California federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, buying the defendants’ argument that every game is available to watch every week somewhere, so there’s no blackout.
The NFL declined to provide updated comment on the situation. DirecTV did not respond to a request for comment.
Wait, so the lawsuit is dead?
No (otherwise this explanation would be much shorter). The lawsuit was revived in 2019 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, according to Bloomberg law. The court found that the licensing agreements were allegedly part of a “single conspiracy to limit the output of NFL television programming.”
Since then, many decisions have favored the plaintiffs.
In 2020, the United States Supreme Court rejected a bid by the NFL and DirecTV (then owned by AT&T) to review the antitrust lawsuit and overturn the 2019 decision.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the decision did not mean she endorsed the plaintiffs’ claims. It opened the door to a review of the case if the defendants end up losing in summary judgment or trial.
More recent updates?
Yes. In February, a U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles called the case a class action lawsuit against the NFL and its teams. This is a big step for plaintiffs’ attorneys, who must consolidate and organize the myriad of claims from individuals and businesses.
When does the trial start?
It should start in February 2014.
What’s going on with Sunday Ticket in the meantime?
Google’s YouTube is set to take over Sunday Ticket for the upcoming season after striking a new deal valued at $2 billion.
Fans can pay for Sunday Ticket as an add-on to their existing YouTube TV service, or pay for it a la carte as a YouTube Primetime channel. The add-on starts at $299 per season, while the standalone service starts at $399.
How does this suit affect the new deal?
This is not the case. YouTube is not a defendant in this lawsuit. It’s unclear whether a ruling would change how the NFL makes its distribution deals. Considering how many years this could take through trials, appeals and possible Supreme Court review, we may not get an answer for some time.