July 19, 2024

Sunday Ticket verdict won’t affect salary cap, changes to Sunday Ticket could

When it comes to the $4.696 billion verdict (which by law becomes $14.088 billion) in the Sunday Ticket class action, the NFL is on its own.

None of the money comes from the revenue that is split between the league and the NFL Players Association. All of it comes from the money held in the coffers of the 32 franchises.

That’s great news for the players, who have benefited from the antitrust violations that kept Sunday Ticket priced at a level that protected the investment made by CBS and Fox, by discouraging people from buying Sunday Ticket and encouraging them to watch the games on their local TV stations.

The bad news, potentially, is that any changes forced by the outcome of the case could, in theory, impact future revenues. Given that the league and the union share the cash from TV deals, a reduction in TV revenue will hurt the players.

It’s premature at this point to know if changes will need to be made. The NFL will appeal Thursday’s outcome all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If/when the NFL wins, the money won’t be paid — and the model likely won’t have to change.

Even without a win in court, the information that came to light during the trial could prompt sufficient fan and media blowback to force the league to finally get rid of the overpriced out-of-market package and either make it cheaper and more flexible (as ESPN waned to do) or carve it up among various channels available on current cable/satellite/streaming packages (as the league considered doing in 2017).

If changes like that are made, will the NFL generate more or less money than it currently makes? Given that pro football continues to be the one property that can attract huge simultaneous audiences, the powers-that-be will likely find a way to leverage their enviable situation into the one word that got them into this mess in the first place.