Jury Hits NFL With $4.7 Billion In Damages In ‘Sunday Ticket’ Legal Fight

A Los Angeles jury agreed Thursday that the NFL violated antitrust laws by offering Sunday afternoon games via a premium subscription service, awarding plaintiffs hefty damages of about $4.7 billion in a years-old class action suit.

The NFL said it plans to contest the decision.

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The lawsuit first filed in 2015 covers 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses like bars and restaurants who paid for out-of-market games from the 2011 to 2022 NFL seasons on DirecTV. It alleged that the league broke antitrust laws by selling the Sunday game package at an inflated price, and by offering the sought after Sunday Ticket games only on a satellite provider.

In 2023, the NFL kicked off a seven-year, $14 billion deal with YouTube TV, which moved Sunday Ticket to streaming after a 29-year run on DirecTV, which had launched the package.

Plaintiffs in the case argued that the league was engaging in price-fixing because fans of a single team were not able to buy just that team’s games. (Under the terms of media rights deals with networks, local stations carry games in teams’ home markets on over-the-air broadcast television.) Instead, the only option was to sign up for all out-of-market games on Sunday Ticket, which costs hundreds of dollars a season.

The NFL had tried and failed to get the case dismissed. “The NFL-DirecTV Agreement prevents telecasts from appearing on more than one channel, reducing the number of games being shown locally as free, over-the-air broadcasts and leaving DirecTV as the only option to view many games,” explained Judge Gutierrez in a summary of the plaintiff’s POV in his ruling early this year to let the case go forward. If the verdict stands, as Deadline wrote then, the result could be a streaming free-for-all with each of the league’s 32 teams making individual deals with platforms games.

The verdict represents a rare come-uppance to the NFL, which is a colossus in the TV business and American culture at large.

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

The NFL added that it “will certainly contest this decision as we believe that the class action claims in this case are baseless and without merit. We thank the jury for their time and service and for the guidance and oversight from Judge Gutierrez throughout the trial.”

The next steps will be the filing of post-trial motions, which will be heard by the trial judge July 31, Deadline hears. If the verdict is not set aside, the judge will likely then be asked to consider possible structural changes in the Sunday Ticket package, as well as plaintiffs’ lawyers request for an award of legal fees.

That done, the league would likely appeal any adverse rulings to the Ninth Circuit and any damages or imposition of structural changes to the Sunday Ticket package would likely be stayed until the appeals process has been concluded.

Dominic Patten contributed to this report

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