NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defends 'Sunday Ticket' package as a premium product


LOS ANGELES — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated during testimony in federal court Monday that the league’s “Sunday Ticket” package, the subject of a class-action lawsuit, is a premium product while also defending the league’s broadcast model.

Goodell was called as a witness by the NFL as the trial for the lawsuit filed by “Sunday Ticket” subscribers entered its third week.

“We have been clear throughout that it is a premium product. Not just on pricing but quality,” Goodell said during cross-examination in a Los Angeles courtroom. “Fans make that choice whether they wanted it or not. I’m sure there were fans who said it was too costly.”

Goodell, who has been commissioner since 2006, said he believes this is the first time he has been called to testify in federal court during his tenure.

The class-action, which covers 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses who paid for the package from 2011 through 2022, claims the league broke antitrust laws by selling its package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games at an inflated price. The subscribers also say the league restricted competition by offering “Sunday Ticket” only on a satellite provider.

The NFL maintains it has the right to sell “Sunday Ticket” under its antitrust exemption for broadcasting. The plaintiffs say that only covers over-the-air broadcasts and not pay TV.

If the NFL is found liable, a jury could award $7 billion in damages, but that number could balloon to $21 billion because antitrust cases can triple damages.

During the first two weeks of the trial, exhibits by the plaintiffs showed that Fox and CBS have long been concerned about how competition from a more widely distributed “Sunday Ticket” package could affect ratings for locally aired games.

Goodell said the NFL decided to put “Sunday Ticket” on DirecTV from 1994 through 2022 because it was one the few platforms available that had national distribution. He cited the fragmented nature of cable companies for why it wasn’t available on cable.

Goodell also said the league’s broadcast model, where local games are available over the air for all games, is why NFL games are highly rated.

“We sing it from the mountaintops, We want to reach the broadest possible audience on free television,” he said. “I think we are very pro-consumer. Our partners have found ways to build our fan base.”

Goodell also said that one reason the league decided to sell Thursday night games that had been exclusively on NFL Network from 2006 through 2013 to other networks was because of the quality of production.

Thursday night games were shared by CBS and NBC from 2014 through 2016 before Fox aired them for the next five seasons. Amazon Prime Video took over the package in 2022.

“I had my own opinion that our production was below standards that the networks (Fox and CBS) had set. We had not met that standard,” he said.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a member of the league’s media committee, is expected to testify after Goodell.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl



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