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NFL, DirecTV sued over Sunday Ticket

How quickly will DirecTV’s settlement of a lawsuit challenging the NHL out-of-market package that prevents the purchase of one team’s games spawn a similar attack on DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package?

If the over/under was a week and you took the under, congratulations.

A class action attacking the Sunday Ticket package was filed Wednesday in California. PFT has obtained a copy of the complaint filed by Thomas Abrahamian against the NFL, DirecTV, and related defendants.

The lawsuit accuses the NFL and DirecTV of violating federal antitrust laws by requiring consumers to purchase all Sunday afternoon out-of-market games, even if the customer wants to see the out-of-market games for one team only. Over the years, the Sunday Ticket package has been marketed from time to time specifically to those consumers.

“The League and DirecTV offer NFL Sunday Ticket only as all-or-nothing,” the complaint alleges at paragraph 36. “Purchasers of NFL Sunday Ticket must buy all out-of-market games for all teams even if they are only interested in watching the games of a particular team. Likewise, consumers must buy the complete season of games and may not purchase individual games.”

The NFL surely will argue that the broadcast antitrust exemption which allows games of separate teams to be bundled and sold to the networks allows that same bundling to occur when selling the games to consumers. The league faced a similar lawsuit in 1997, attacking not the inability to purchase games involving one specific team but the inability to purchase the package one Sunday at a time. Settled in 2001, the agreement allowed consumers for a limited time to buy NFL Sunday Ticket on any given Sunday.

The question in this case is whether the lawyers will push the litigation through to a conclusion, or whether they’ll accept a proposal that pays them handsomely for their limited efforts, gives the class members a short-term cookie for their trouble, and ultimately doesn’t effect meaningful change.

Whatever the law ultimately requires, here’s hoping that this lawsuit goes to the end, so that if consumers are illegally being deprived of the ability to purchase out-of-market games on a team-by-team basis, they’ll have that right going forward. Or, alternatively, if the NFL and DirecTV are complying with the law, they’ll be insulated from future attacks.