Jury rules NFL must pay more than $4 billion to ‘Sunday Ticket’ subscribers

Jury rules NFL must pay more than  billion to ‘Sunday Ticket’ subscribers

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A jury ruled against the NFL on Thursday in a long-running legal battle – which likely still is not complete – over the cost of the DirecTV “Sunday Ticket” broadcast package, delivering a setback that would cost the league billions of dollars if not later reversed.

The NFL was ordered to pay $96 million to commercial “Sunday Ticket” subscribers and $4.7 billion to residential subscribers.

The verdict, which was delivered in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, is expected to be appealed by the NFL.

“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict today in the NFL Sunday Ticket class action lawsuit,” the NFL said in a statement on Thursday. “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. We 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 trial began June 6 in Los Angeles, with juror deliberations starting Wednesday.

The class action case alleged that the NFL violated antitrust law by capping distribution and limiting competition, offering “Sunday Ticket” only on DirecTV, a satellite provider. The case also alleged that this allowed DirecTV to charge customers artificially inflated prices for “Sunday Ticket.”

An expert for the plaintiffs estimated that at least 2.4 million customers were in the class, while putting the commercial class, including businesses like sports bars, hotels and restaurants, at 48,000 subscribers. The classes include DirecTV subscribers who purchased “Sunday Ticket” from June 2011 through February 2023.

In a January 2024 filing, plaintiffs said they were entitled to damages of up to $7.01 billion.

The NFL had denied any wrongdoing and defended its distribution model for “Sunday Ticket,” which it classifies as a premium product.

U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez had overseen the case for several years. Previously, he had ruled in favor of the NFL, dismissing the case, though it was reinstated in 2019 in an appeals court.

According to the Associated Press, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the chairman of the NFL media owned and operated committee, testified last week. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also testified June 17, and former CBS Sports (Sean McManus) and Fox Sports (Larry Jones) executives also took the stand.

According to the Associated Press, this case began in 2015, when a sports bar in San Francisco, The Mucky Duck, filed a lawsuit. The case was dismissed two years later but revived in 2019 when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it.

In 2023, Gutierrez had ruled that the case could proceed as a class action.

DirecTV had carried “Sunday Ticket” from its launch in 1994 through the 2022 season. In December 2022, however, Google, the parent company of YouTube TV, secured an exclusive, seven-year contract worth an average of $2 billion per year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The 2023 season was YouTube TV’s first season offering “Sunday Ticket.” Neither Google nor YouTube TV were listed as defendants in the class action trial.

Contributing: Reuters

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