SBD/February 24, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

DirecTV Trying To Block Unsealing Of Confidential Records In NFL Media Fees Case

DirecTV late yesterday filed a motion in Minnesota federal court seeking to block the unsealing of its confidential records in the closely watched NFL media fees case. Two local Minnesota newspapers are seeking a complete unsealing of records in the NFLPA’s case against the NFL, in which the union alleges the league took lower media payments in return for guaranteed payments during a possible lockout. The arguments in that case, and on the unsealing, are set to be heard this morning. The NFLPA is also seeking a broad unsealing, though DirecTV’s arguments are directed against the newspapers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. DirecTV said unsealing the records, which includes the contract and privileged communications, would expose the satellite channel’s NFL strategy, thereby impairing its ability to renew the deal in ‘14. The newspapers are also seeking to unseal the transcript of former DirectTV president Chase Carey’s testimony. “The same strategic information used to negotiate the 2009 contract extension will be relevant to negotiate the next contract before the expiration of the current agreement in 2014,” the company wrote the court. “Indeed, Mr. Carey’s testimony provided an invaluable glimpse into how DirecTV values NFL Sunday Ticket, the exclusivity of NFL Sunday Ticket programming, digital media rights, the Work Stoppage provision and many other issues likely to again be the subject of fierce negotiation involving billions of dollars of rights fees. This information is also of competitive significance with respect to DirecTV’s contract negotiations with other sports leagues, such as Major League Baseball, where similar terms and issues are at stake. Consequently, the public release of confidential DirecTV contract terms and information is likely to cause immediate and irreparable harm to the company.”

DIRECT CLAIMS: DirecTV said it only agreed to testify and produce roughly 4,000 pages of documents after a strict confidentiality agreement that made the records only available to the NFL’s and NFLPA’s outside counsel and expert witnesses. NFL employees were not allowed to see the material. The materials and Carey were made available during the special master phase of the proceedings. The special master ruled for the NFL, but the NFLPA has appealed to the federal court. The special master put in place the confidentiality restrictions.
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