WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Class action lawsuits filed against the National Football League and DirecTV over their Sunday Ticket agreements will be consolidated in a California federal court.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a transfer order last week.

The four-member panel selected the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to handle the lawsuits, saying the federal court will serve “the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”

In July, Ninth Inning Inc., representing restaurants and bars, filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL over the league’s agreement with DirecTV and its broadcasting of “out of market” games.

Ninth Inning filed its lawsuit in the Central District of California against NFL Inc., NFL Enterprises and DirecTV.

According to Ninth Inning’s complaint, the NFL is illegally protecting and increasing its monopoly profits from DirecTV over its out of market games.

DirecTV is the sole distributor of the out of market games, and its agreement with the NFL allows the satellite company to charge “supra-competitive prices” for its NFL Sunday Ticket, the lawsuit alleges.

The agreement allows DirecTV to raise its prices for the NFL Sunday Ticket and afternoon out of market games, according to the lawsuit.

“Every NFL member team owns the initial rights to the broadcast of that team’s games,” Ninth Inning’s lawsuit states. “However, the teams have chosen to collude with each other, and to grant the NFL the exclusive right to market those games outside each team’s home market.

“But for the NFL teams’ agreement in which DirecTV has joined, teams would compete against each other in the market for NFL football programming, which would likely induce more competitive pricing.”

According to the MDL panel’s order, the litigation currently consists of six actions pending in two districts, including Ninth Inning’s. The panel said it has been notified of 15 related actions.

Sarah Vance, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and chair of the MDL panel, said in the panel’s Dec. 8 order that the Central District of California was the most “appropriate” given that 15 actions, including potential tag-along actions, are pending in the district before Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell.

“DirecTV has its headquarters in this district, and thus common evidence likely will be located there,” Vance wrote in the two-page order. “This district also has the support of all defendants and the majority of the responding plaintiffs.

“Judge O’Connell is an experienced jurist, and we are confident that she will steer this litigation on a prudent course.”

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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