The NFL Will Go to the Supreme Court in Antitrust Case


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On February 7, just days after Super Bowl LIV, the NFL will file a petition with the US Supreme Court that could change the way sports fan watch games.

The way NFL game licensing is currently set up involves all of the teams grouping all of the games in the league together and distributing them to broadcasters in one package. This has been allowed since the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 which made professional sports leagues an exception to antitrust laws when it came to selling rights.

In 1984, in the case of NCAA v. Board of Regents, the Supreme Court rules that a similar system of distributing rights to NCAA games violated antitrust laws. College teams now control their individual licensing deals.

The NFL would like to keep things the way they are, arguing that, “Unlike the NCAA, the NFL is a highly integrated joint venture that produces an entertainment product — the on-the-field competition of NFL Football — which the NFL then distributes to consumers through broadcast television and other means.”

What could this mean for cord cutters? Changing the current structure could give each team the rights to their games. Teams could then individually make deals to license games to streaming services. This could give smaller or niche streaming services rights to certain teams, with others making deals with larger broadcasters like ESPN.

With deals between the NFL and broadcasters coming to an end within the next few years, this decision could cause an upheaval in the way the league makes deals, how players are compensated for the TV deals, and how fans watch their favorite teams.

Read the NFL’s full application for extension to the Supreme Court here.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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