Antitrust Lawsuit Revived Against NFL, DirecTV Over "Sunday Ticket"
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals "reversed a decision to end a nationwide class-action lawsuit" over DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package in a "potentially huge decision," according to Eriq Gardner of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Subscribers of Sunday Ticket are "challenging the league's dealmaking in a bold antitrust case." The action was "dismissed by a federal judge who two years ago rejected the proposition that restraining broadcasts of out-of-market games resulted in less output and higher prices." But Ninth Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta yesterday led a "majority decision reversing the dismissal." The plaintiffs contend that without the NFL pooling out-of-market telecasts, there would be "multiple telecasts of each game with teams competing against each other by distributing telecasts through various cable, satellite and internet channels." A limited injunction against the NFL prevented teams from "broadcasting games into another team's market when that team was playing road games." Ikuta in her decision said that no individual NFL team is "permitted to sell its telecasting rights independently." The NFL "put up several arguments to foreclose the conclusion." Among them was the "proposition that it was necessary to analyze the horizontal agreement separate from the vertical agreement -- the NFL-DirecTV deal -- and that the latter effort to enter into an exclusive distribution agreement was presumptively legal." The Ninth Circuit "rejects the approach, saying it is required to take a 'holistic' look at how the interlocking agreements actually impact competition" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/13).