Sunday Ticket antitrust class action goes to trial in June 2024

For years, the NFL's Sunday Ticket package has walked, talked, and quacked like an antitrust violation. Later this year, a lawsuit aimed at proving that fact will come to a head.

Via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, a class action attacking the Sunday Ticket approach will go to trial in June. If the league loses, the damages award could be more than $6 billion — or the cost of the Commanders at its recent sale.

Earlier this month, the NFL took an "L" in its effort to have the case dismissed by summary judgment, a common tool for corporate defendants to avoid juries by arguing there's nothing for a jury to resolve. The judge denied the NFL’s motion. Trial had been set for February 22; it has since been delayed to June.

The core argument is that the NFL and the Sunday Ticket provider (previously, DirecTV) have created a "premium product" that must be purchased in a full-season, every-game bundle, with no option to buy the ability to buy a smaller package, such as the games featuring one specific out-of-market team. Indeed, Sunday Ticket is regularly marketed to fans who live in one market and who want to watch a team that plays in a different market. To watch, for example, all Packers games if you live in Pittsburgh, you have to plunk down the trumped-up price for the entire package, covering every team and every week.

The end result is an alleged monopoly for the Sunday Ticket provider and an alleged conspiracy to create it. The presiding judge rejected a long list of arguments from the NFL as to why it should win the case without a trial.

The question now becomes whether the league will want to allow this case to go to trial in open court. Even with a win, it could create a P.R. problem for the league and its teams. A settlement is always possible.

It's an important test to the limits of the league's desire to do whatever it wants, however it wants, whenever it wants. When it comes to Sunday Ticket, it has always relied on consumers caring enough about seeing all games of one specific out-of-market team to pay full freight for all games of all out-of-market teams.

Football is family, right? In this case, football is more like forcing fans to dig deeper into the family's budget than necessary to watch only the games they want to see.

If the end result is that a Packers fan in Pittsburgh can pay a lower price for only the Green Bay games instead of full price for all of them, it will be good for fans.

It will be bad for the NFL, but it will be good for fans.