Jury rules NFL violated antitrust laws in ‘Sunday Ticket’ case

LOS ANGELES — A U.S. district court jury ruled Thursday that the NFL violated antitrust laws by distributing out-of-market Sunday afternoon games on a premium subscription service and awarded more than 4.7 billions of dollars in damages.

The jury ordered the league to pay $4.7 billion in damages to the residential class and $96 million in damages to the commercial class.

The NFL said in a statement that it would appeal the verdict.

“We are disappointed in today’s jury verdict in the NFL Sunday Ticket class action lawsuit. We continue to believe that our media distribution strategy, which includes broadcasting all NFL games on free-to-air television in participating team markets and national distribution of our most popular games, complemented by numerous additional choices , including RedZone, Sunday Ticket and NFL+, is by far the most fan-friendly distribution model in all of sports and entertainment,” the league said.

“We will certainly challenge this decision as we believe the class actions in this case are without merit and without merit. We thank the jury for their time and service and for Judge (Philip) Gutierrez’s guidance and supervision throughout the trial.”

Post-trial motions will be heard on July 31, including one seeking to overturn the verdict. If the verdict is not overturned, the NFL will appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court.

The lawsuit involved 2.4 million residential and 48,000 business subscribers who paid for the out-of-market gaming package for the 2011 through 2022 seasons on DirecTV. The lawsuit claimed the league violated antitrust laws by selling its Sunday game package at an inflated price. Subscribers also claim the league restricted competition by offering the “Sunday Ticket” only on a satellite provider.

The jury of five men and three women deliberated for nearly five hours before reaching a decision.

“This case transcends football. This case is important,” plaintiffs’ attorney Bill Carmody said during closing arguments Wednesday. “It’s about justice. It’s about telling the 32 team owners who collectively own all the major television rights, the most popular content in television history, that this is what they have. It’s about telling them that even you can’t ignore antitrust laws. Even you can’t collude to overcharge consumers. Even you can’t hide the truth and think you’re going to get away with it. »

The league has maintained that it has the right to sell the “Sunday Ticket” under its antitrust exemption for broadcasting. The plaintiffs say that only covers live broadcasts, not pay television.

DirecTV offered the “Sunday Ticket” from its inception in 1994 through 2022. The league signed a seven-year deal with Google’s YouTube TV that began with the 2023 season.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by San Francisco sports bar Mucky Duck, but was dismissed in 2017. Two years later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over California and eight other states, revived the case. Gutierrez ruled last year that the case could be treated as a class action.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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