NFL's $6B 'Sunday Ticket' Lawsuit Set for Trial

Legal Showdown Looms for NFL Over Broadcasting Rights.

by Nouman Rasool
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NFL's $6B 'Sunday Ticket' Lawsuit Set for Trial
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The National Football League (NFL) is bracing for a landmark legal showdown, with a trial set to begin shortly after this year's Super Bowl. The league, led by Commissioner Roger Goodell, faces a $6.1 billion antitrust lawsuit centered on its Sunday Ticket package, a service historically offered through DirecTV.

Filed in 2015, the lawsuit alleges that the NFL's practices have inflated prices for fans seeking to watch out-of-market games. The case gained significant traction after U.S. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez certified it as a class action in February 2022 and recently denied the NFL's motion to dismiss it.

Scheduled to start on February 22, the trial could fundamentally alter the NFL's broadcasting model. A defeat for the NFL could lead to each of its 32 teams independently negotiating broadcast deals, potentially decentralizing the league's current centralized broadcasting approach.

This seismic shift would not only affect how fans access games but also challenge the NFL's authority as a governing body. Representing a wide array of stakeholders, including 2.4 million residential subscribers and nearly 50,000 commercial entities, the class action suit criticizes the NFL-DirecTV Agreement for monopolizing game telecasts.

Judge Gutierrez emphasized the plaintiffs' argument that this agreement limited free, local broadcasts of games, highlighting the league's misleading statements about its member clubs' involvement. While the NFL remains silent on the ruling, the league might pursue a settlement or seek a favorable ruling from the U.S.

Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. However, the focus is currently on the upcoming trial, which has been as dramatic and unpredictable as an NFL playoff game. This lawsuit's journey through the legal system has been fraught with twists and turns.

Initially dismissed in 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it in 2019, leading to its resurgence in Judge Gutierrez's court amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The class action certification in 2021 marked a critical point, setting the stage for the trial.

More than a legal dispute, this case reflects the complex dynamics between the NFL, its fan base, and commercial strategies. The trial's outcome could herald a new era in sports broadcasting, influencing how major leagues manage and distribute content.

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