Last week a class action lawsuit was settled between the NHL and a group of plaintiffs that could change how leagues offer out-of-market TV packages. Essentially the settlement will allow fans to purchase a discounted out-of-market package that allows them to watch their favorite team without springing for a more expensive entire-league bundled offering. If fans wants to watch the Blackhawks defend the title while living in L.A., they can buy a Blackhawks package instead of the whole league package. Obviously, purchasing a one-team package is less expensive than the entire NHL. This settlement will have an interesting effect on other leagues such as the NBA and, more importantly, the NFL.
The NBA already offers a digital option for a league pass that allows fans to choose five teams to watch on an OTT set or through a computer. This package is $50 less than the entire league option. The NFL, however, only offers Sunday Ticket, which forces out-of-market fans to pay for every game. There is no discounted five-team option, and there is definitely no single-team option. DirecTV owns exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, and although it does have different pricing options depending on consumption methods (computer, OTT, traditional TV), fans must still purchase entire packages.
It will be interesting to see if the leagues and distribution partners continue their current offerings or if they simply offer more a la carte packages. A class action lawsuit takes time, but offering single-team packages could entice more out-of-market purchases. It could also cannibalize current business. Change is coming, it just depends if the NFL and NBA follow what the NHL is now forced to do.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.