from the illegal-shift-in-the-backfield dept
"*NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV service is only available to non-DIRECTV customers who live in a select apartment building where DIRECTV service is not available, attend select universities, or live in one of the following metro areas: New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco. NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV UNIVERSITY only available to students enrolled in eligible universities. Blackout rules and other conditions apply.Even if you qualify, it's still a pretty far cry from services like MLB.TV, which is available for as little as $60 a year. Each time the exclusive arrangement is up for renewal, wiser NFL fans quietly pray the NFL will realize the benefits of broader, less-exclusive distribution of games, but ultimately a huge check from DirecTV almost always wins out (this last check clocked in at around $12 billion for an eight year deal).
There is, however, some fleeting legal fisticuffs on the horizon that might (but probably won't) shake up this cozy arrangement. Last month, DirecTV and the NFL were hit with a class action lawsuit (pdf) alleging that the companies' exclusive distribution arrangement for NFL games under the NFL Sunday Ticket brand violates antitrust laws. The suit took specific aim at the inflexibility of the packages sold to consumers:
"The league and DirecTV offer NFL Sunday Ticket only as all-or-nothing. Purchasers of NFL Sunday Ticket must buy all out-of-market games for all teams even if they are only interested in watching the games of a particular team. Likewise, consumers must buy the complete season of games and may not purchase individual games."Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have been hit with similar suits (which the NFL is also included in), and both leagues have so far responded with slightly-more-flexible fare (like NBA's League Pass, which allows the purchase of individual games). The NFL, however, is also now facing a second lawsuit (pdf) from a sports bar owner in San Francisco alleging that locking bars to DirecTV service to extract "monopoly rents" (From $2,500 to $120,000 depending on size) constitutes an "illegal monopoly":
"Defendants have colluded to sell the out-of-market NFL Sunday afternoon games only through DirecTV. Such an arrangement eliminates competition in the distribution of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games and requires anyone wishing to view these games to subscribe to DirecTV and purchase NFL Sunday Ticket at the supracompetitive price dictated by DirecTV."It's unclear if either suit will convince a judge to blow up the NFL and DirecTV's cozy cuddling, but a successful suit could have far-reaching implications. AT&T's $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV is contingent on DirecTV maintaining its exclusive relationship with the NFL, meaning AT&T can walk away should the arrangement crumble. Regardless of the suit(s), you'd hope that the NFL some day wakes up and realizes the benefits of broader, more flexible NFL game distribution when it comes to battling pirated game streams and users who are having to use VPN to get cheaper international NFL streaming options.