NFL's broadcast partners dropped from DirecTV Sunday Ticket class-action suit

The NFL's four biggest broadcast partners have been removed from a class-action suit targeting the league and DirecTV (NYSE: T) over the NFL Sunday Ticket games package.

ESPN, FOX, NBC and CBS are no longer part of the anti-trust action, which has been consolidated from myriad class-action suits down to one class-action complaint. 

The plaintiffs, which range from individual consumers to bars and restaurants, say the NFL and DirecTV are improperly colluding to control pricing and access to football games, rather than let teams negotiate deals in their own markets themselves. 

"No other major sports league in America has such a drastic, total elimination of competition in the broadcasting of its games," the plaintiffs said in their federal lawsuit, filed in the Central District of California. "While Major League Baseball ('MLB'), the National Hockey League ('NHL'), and the National Basketball League ('NBA') have each allocated markets geographically and pooled so-called out-of-market rights, none has agreed to centralize control and sale of all broadcast rights."

Complaining sports bars say they pay as much as $120,000 a year to show their patrons local NFL games through DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package. Local games for other sports leagues, including the NBA and Major League Baseball, are usually shown on regional sports networks, which negotiate broadcast contracts with individual teams. 

The original lawsuit accused the networks of participating in this alleged conspiracy. 

In May, Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell named Hausfeld LLP, Susman Godfrey LLP, Robins Kaplan LLP, and Langer, Grogan & Diver LLP as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. 

A number of other firms were relegated to steering committee roles. Among them were Cohen Milstein LLP, which named ESPN, FOX, NBC and CBS in its original complaint. 

For more:
- read this Hollywood Reporter story
- read this Awful Announcing story

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