This week, many people are following the question of whether any disputes about voting deadlines and ballot counting will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Also this week, the court has refused to stop a case that involves the NFL and DirecTV.
Both entities were sued, several years ago, on antitrust grounds, by parties accusing them of overcharging for its exclusive Sunday Ticket package, which allows football fans to watch out-of-market NFL games. The lawsuit, which had originally been multiple lawsuits, dates back to 2015. It argues that the NFL and DirecTV’s relationship unfairly eliminated competition.
Per Reuters, a lower court had revived the suit in 2019, and the NFL and DirecTV had asked the Supreme Court to overturn that decision. The case is formally called National Football League, et al., Petitioners v. Ninth Inning, Inc., et al. The listed plaintiffs are a pair of bars—The Mucky Duck and Gael Pub, as well as one individual, while the defendants are the NFL, DirecTV, and most individual NFL teams. The sports league and satellite provider had filed in March with the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“In sum, the defendants—the NFL, its teams, and DirecTV—have substantial arguments on the law. If the defendants do not prevail at summary judgment or at trial, they may raise those legal arguments again in a new petition for certiorari,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the opinion.
With parent company AT&T reportedly looking to sell DirecTV, there are also rumors that DirecTV could lose its exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package, in two years.
DirecTV has had the exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket for as long as the package has existed, going back twenty-five years. That deal, however, only runs until 2022, as part of an agreement reached when AT&T bought DirecTV.
However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that he would like to see the Sunday Ticket package become more widely available. MLB Extra Innings, the baseball equivalent to Sunday Ticket, was formerly exclusive to DirecTV but has since become available through other systems. DirecTV also offers Sunday Ticket to non-DirecTV customers in areas where the satellite service is not available.
DirecTV’s subscriber numbers have been seriously declining, even more than most pay TV services this year. AT&T’s pay TV segment, most of which consists of DirecTV, lost 590,000 subscribers in the third quarter, per AT&T’s quarterly earnings report in October. The company had lost 897,000 subscribers in the first quarter and an additional 886,000 in the second, after losing 3 million subscribers in the year previous. This decline has inspired AT&T to seek to sell or spin-off the service.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.