A fourth class-action anti-trust lawsuit has been initiated against the NFL, along with DirecTV and its new corporate parent, AT&T (NYSE: T), over the NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market games package.
Leading this case is Robins Kaplan LLP, a national law firm specializing in "high-stakes litigation representation." The firm and its client, New York sports bar Gael Pub, accuse the NFL and DirecTV of violating U.S. antitrust law by creating an exclusive package of out-of-market games that can only be seen by DirecTV subscribers.
A suit was filed by Robins Kaplan LLP on behalf of Gael Pub in California's Central District Court -- the same court in which another law firm, Hausfeld LLP, filed a remarkably similar complaint for San Francisco sports bar the Mucky Duck in July.
The complaints contend that Sunday Ticket should not be offered to DirecTV exclusively and should be opened to other pay-TV operators to increase competition and lower the price. Robins Kaplan accuses NFL teams of colluding in a "horizontal conspiracy" to create a high-priced, exclusive pay-TV product. The plaintiffs say the package currently violates two sections of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
"These are typically mom and pop shops, and when you have only one provider for a service you really need, and that one provider is overcharging you, it's really frustrating," Kellie Lerner, the attorney leading the case for Robins Kaplan LLP, told FierceCable.
The NFL and DirecTV are, according to the lawsuit, charging an "artificially inflated premium" to Sunday Ticket subscribers. "This lawsuit seeks to level the playing field and give subscribers access to the games they want under the fair, competitive conditions that our antitrust laws demand," Lerner also said in a prepared statement.
Neither the NFL nor DirecTV has responded to any of the complaints publicly.
The Sunday Ticket package allows subscribers to watch every game that's being played out of their local market on each Sunday of the NFL regular season.
A year ago, DirecTV signed an exclusive, multi-year $12 billion deal with the NFL to re-up the Sunday Ticket package. The deal, which runs through 2022, increases DirecTV's licensing fees from $1 billion a season to over $1.4 billion. Depending on their size, businesses pay between $2,314 and $120,000 a season to purchase Sunday Ticket access.
The action comes after Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League endured similar class action suits over bundles featuring out-of-market games. The MLB and NHL have made their out-of-market bundles available for numerous pay-TV providers. The NBA, meanwhile, recently announced that it is disaggregating its NBA League Pass bundle, allowing customers to purchase individual games.
- read this Robins Kaplan LLP press release
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