As currently constructed, the NFL collectively licenses their games to broadcast distributors for roughly $6 billion a year. That's why you always go to CBS, NBC< Fox or ESPN to catch your favorite team on Sundays. But what if each individual team had the right to make their own TV deals?
On Friday, a handful of plaintiffs including the Bounce Sporting Club in New York, the Pedal Haus Brewery in Arizona and a DirecTV subscriber named Jonathan Frantz from Oakland, California, filed a lawsuit in opposition of the current structure. As was the case with previous lawsuits of this nature, the complaint is looking to apply the 2010 Supreme Court ruling American Needle v. National Football League, which ruled that NFL teams are capable of conspiring when making licensing deals.
"For example, Fox insisted on and received a commitment that Sunday Ticket be capped at one million subscribers annually," reads the lawsuit. "This cap has increased over the years but, on information and belief, remains a contractual obligation."
The lawsuit claims that much of the blame for the expensive price tag that DirecTV and the NFL charger for the former's "Sunday Ticket" package - roughly $349 for individual subscribers and up to $120,000 for commercial subscribers - is a result of the league colluding with TV networks. The plaintiffs want to dismantle the current structure and free games from the broadcast networks.
"In a competitive market, up to seven games would be broadcast simultaneously," the lawsuit states. "This would represent a massive increase in consumer choice - but would give CBS and Fox direct competitors that would reduce their ratings and revenue. By keeping those games off regular television and restricting them only to DirecTV subscribers who are willing to pay for the supracompetitively priced bundle, the scheme gives CBS and Fox an artificial duopoly over one of the most valuable commodities in all of television."