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Volume 26 No. 206
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NFL Filing Supreme Court Petition Over TV Rights Deals

The league pools telecast rights to live games and collectively negotiates licensing packages
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The league pools telecast rights to live games and collectively negotiates licensing packages
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The league pools telecast rights to live games and collectively negotiates licensing packages
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL on Feb. 7 is set to "file a high-stakes petition to the U.S. Supreme Court with major implications for the television industry," according to Eriq Gardner of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. NFL teams "pool telecast rights to all live games and collectively negotiate licensing packages with broadcasters." However, the 9th Circuit Court in August "hinted at potential upheaval" to that system. In reviving a class-action lawsuit concerning DirecTV's Sunday Ticket, the federal appeals court "ruled it was plausible that the 'horizontal' agreement among the NFL's 32 teams to pool TV rights along with the league's 'vertical' agreement with a satellite distributor amounted to an illegal restraint of competition under the Sherman Antitrust Act." The 9th Circuit "relied in part" on the '84 NCAA v. Board of Regents case, as well as the '10 American Needle case. The NFL states that the "arrangement is 'integral to the creation of [its] product,' setting up the argument that the 9th Circuit has misconstrued legal precedent and that game telecasts are nothing like the kind of licensed apparel that the Supreme Court focused on" in the American Needle case. The timing of this dispute is notable because the NFL's broadcast deals "expire in the next few years" The league also "has yet to come to a new collective bargaining agreement with players -- the split of TV money is traditionally the biggest issue." This "deep pass to the Supreme Court is of much larger import than just what it means for football broadcasts" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 12/3).