Sunday Ticket trial is coming very soon

The NFL’s Sunday Ticket feature has raised antitrust issues since its inception 30 years ago. In only nine days, the NFL will defend the product at trial.

As recently noted by Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, the landmark litigation comes to a head starting on June 5.

The basic argument is that the NFL’s broadcast antitrust exemption doesn’t allow it to bundle all rights to out-of-market games and sell them as one unit. Damages could exceed $6 billion.

Almost as problematic for the league is that multiple NFL movers and shakers will have to climb into a witness box and resist the temptation to give the judge side eye.

Fischer notes that a settlement is unlikely, because the two sides are too far apart. There’s still time for the divide to be bridged. Plenty of cases settle figuratively, if not literally, on the courthouse steps.

The NFL could be banking on finding a silver bullet in the increasingly pro-business federal court system, culminating with the Supreme Court. As Fischer explains, the case presents the question of whether the broadcast antitrust exemption applies to other formats, like satellite.

That same issue is lingering for the pivot to streaming, as recently explained here.

The entire Sunday Ticket experiment involves layers and levels of antitrust issues, from the league’s sale of the rights to the customers’ purchase of the product. Even though it’s marketed as a way for, for instance, Saints fans in Pittsburgh to see all games of their favorite team, the only option is to buy every week for every team for the entire year.

Why not let a fan buy the games for one team? Or one week at a time? Or one game at a time?

Someone, somewhere has decided that the league will make more money this way. Maybe it does.

And maybe the trial starting next week commences the process of shaking up the way Sunday Ticket is distributed and sold.

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