The NFL could appeal the Sunday Ticket case all the way to the Supreme Court … or it could do the right thing


Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered.

The NFL — which looks and subsequently acts like the Hogzilla of all Hogzillas — undoubtedly brushes such an old adage aside. After all, it is selling football to Americans (and now even international fans). How could it ever not succeed?

It may not be wrong, but how about expressing a modicum of respect for the desperate, dare we say football-addicted customers that the league continues to wring for every last dollar?

A jury in Los Angeles ruled last week that the NFL violated federal antitrust laws by selling its “Sunday Ticket” package of out-of-market games exclusively on DirectTV at an inflated price in an effort to protect the local broadcast of games on Fox and CBS.

The league could be liable for about $14.39 billion in damages to individual and commercial Sunday Ticket customers. A judicial reduction or a settlement can still be reached.

The NFL doesn’t find itself in too many courtrooms (this case took nine years of wrangling). It loses even less frequently. And in this case, it is confident it can reverse the verdict on appeal, especially at the United States Supreme Court that it believes will be business friendly.

Again, the league may be correct.

But should winning on some appellate technicality really be the goal when a jury clearly believed it was ripping off its own fans by limiting choices?

The NFL is free to appeal the verdict, and it is certainly naive to expect a pack of billionaires to consider doing the “right” thing, but it doesn’t excuse them if they don’t.

Rather than requiring fans to access the package through YouTubeTV (which took over from DirectTV in 2023), it should be available on any cable or streaming package. That’s how it works for the “NBA League Pass” and “NHL Center Ice.”

Right now it costs a $72.99-a-month subscription to YouTubeTV, not to mention switching from a provider customers may have preferred, just to get access to purchase the Sunday Ticket for an additional $349 subscription fee to view every Sunday day game.

In the trial, it was revealed ESPN was interested in offering the entire package for as little as $70 a season. It additionally wanted to offer even cheaper team-exclusive packages.

This type of package would benefit fans who, say, are only interested in watching Pittsburgh Steeler games who could then pay for only Pittsburgh Steeler games, not every single game. Or fans who, say, are out of town for a weekend or are busy one Sunday afternoon or when the Steelers are on a national broadcast. They wouldn’t be forced to pay for games they won’t consume.

This would, inarguably, be pro-fan. It would also make a ton of money, something even the NFL acknowledges.

Instead, the league’s plan was to prevent the widespread use of Sunday Ticket so it could force fans to watch whatever game their local Fox or CBS affiliate broadcast, thus driving up the costs Fox and CBS must pay them.

“We’re not looking to get lots of people,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft testified in a deposition.

Well, they should.

The NFL continues to stick it to fans. What was once the purview of broadcast television will, in 2024, require a cable package (ESPN) plus subscription streaming services (Peacock, Amazon and Netflix). It’s not just the money, but the inconvenience.

Additionally, the NFL remains committed to moving more games internationally, in turn taking home games away from local customers and tax-payer funded stadiums.

Giving something back — and something that would still make a lot of money — is long overdue.

It’s also quite possible that the value of the Fox and CBS deals for Sunday afternoon games isn’t diminished.

The technology exists for local commercials to be inserted into broadcasts.

Let’s say you live in Chicago and want to watch an Atlanta Falcons game rather than the Bears game on local TV. The Falcons broadcast could run the ads that would have been used on the local affiliate. Even in-stadium signage can be protected; in the NHL, the advertisements on the boards are localized, so fans tuning in for the road team get to see ads designed for their market.

The ease of this will only increase in the future.

Mostly, though, it’s a chance for the NFL to throw some crumbs to the fans that it continues to push and push. They’ll still make plenty of money, perhaps more than ever.

Just try acting more like a pig, not Hogzilla bathing in cash.



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