A lawsuit has been filed against the 32 individual teams of the National Football League for allegedly conspiring together to create an anti-competitive market for their football games.
The lawsuit is being filed by the Bounce Sporting Club in New York, the Pedal Haus Brewery in Arizona and Jonathan Frantz, a DirecTV subscriber from Oakland, CA.
The plaintiffs claim that the market for professional football games would be completely different if the 32 teams were each independent when it came to licensing their games.
Some teams would likely broadcast their games online, and it would probably allow more than two games available on broadcast television at any given time, all without having to purchase a specialty sports subscription that usually costs individual subscribers hundreds of dollars per year.
Under the current model, the 32 teams pool their game rights, as the league acts a collective license dealer to sell the games to broadcast distributors. Critics say that this current model leads to inflated costs and a lower output of games.
Broadcasters of NFL games, CBS, FOX, NBC and ESPN are also involved in the potential lawsuits. The plaintiffs argue that the current model works in favor of the broadcasters by forcing viewers to watch games on their networks.
The lawsuits would attack the fact that the NFL is extremely restrictive on the number of games that can be shown on broadcast television. If viewers want to watch games that are not being shown on regular television, they have to purchase NFL’s “Sunday Ticket”, which costs $349 per year for individual subscripts and as much as $120,000 for commercial parties. Additionally, “Sunday Ticket” is only available on DirecTV.
The lawsuit reads, “In a competitive market, up to seven games would be broadcast simultaneously. 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 supra-competitively priced bundle, the scheme gives CBS and Fox an artificial duopoly over one of the most valuable commodities in all of television."
Representatives from CBS and FOX declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit also says that ESPN is making extremely large sums of money by having the exclusive right to show Monday Night Football. The same is true for NBC of its Sunday Night Football program.
If the plaintiffs have their way, absolute chaos would be assured. With the number of cable cord-cutters on the rise and more people switching to exclusively online content, many, if not all of the teams, would certainly make their games available through online subscriptions. Also, new cable channels exclusive to certain teams or divisions might very well be established. Major networks would lose out on billions of dollars.
The NFL has not yet commented on the matter.