Bars, restaurants, and other establishments can now cry foul against the NFL and DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket via a class action antitrust lawsuit filed Monday against both companies.
The suit seeks to end the National Football League’s $12 billion contract with DirecTV, as well as recover damages for “supracompetitive premiums” (those above what can be sustained in a competitive marketplace) that commercial subscribers have paid for NFL Sunday Ticket over the last four years. Prominent sports attorney Michael Hausfeld and his team at Hausefld LLP will represent the plaintiffs, led by San Francisco-based pub The Mucky Duck.
NFL Sunday Ticket provides exclusive access to all out-of-market football games, so restaurants and bars that want to show these games must subscribe through DirecTV. Because the NFL is the country’s most popular sports league, the complaint asserts that the establishments represented “must exhibit these games to effectively run their businesses.” The fact that the teams have granted the NFL the right to market all out-of-market games, however, prevents competitive pricing, according to the complaint.
The suit also references a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that held that NFL teams are separate economic actors and are capable of conspiring under the Sherman Act.
The complaint provides examples of multiple subscription costs, which vary depending on an establishment’s fire code occupancy. The 2015 rate for a bar with an occupancy of 51-100, for instance, is $2,314 per year, and prices can climb upwards of $120,000 annually in the cases of certain Las Vegas Hotels. The complaint points out that these rates don’t include TV package subscriptions charges or additional fees for high-def access, among others.
When the NFL and DirecTV agreed to their new deal in 2014, DirecTV reportedly agreed to pay $1.5 billion a year for 8 years, adding up to the grand total of $12 billion. If the lawsuit is able to secure an injunction, the financial impact would certainly be spread throughout the sports and entertainment industries.