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Fri, June 28, 2024

NFL ordered to pay $4.7 billion in Sunday Ticket lawsuit

NFL ordered to pay $4.7 billion in Sunday Ticket lawsuit

A California jury has found the US National Football League (NFL) violated antitrust laws and ordered it to pay $4.7bn in damages to customers who bought a package of its live games over satellite television. The jury ordered the league to pay $4bn in damages to the residential class and $96m in damages to the commercial class. Since damages can be tripled under federal antitrust laws, the NFL could end up being liable for $14.39 billion.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2015 by the Mucky Duck sports bar in San Francisco but was dismissed in 2017. Two years later, the nine US circuit court of appeals, which has jurisdiction over California and eight other states, reinstated the case. “NFL Sunday Ticket” subscribers accused the league, its teams and its network partners of working together to sell the out-of-market sports package at an inflated price and restrict competition. 

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

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

"We are disappointed with the jury's verdict today in the NFL Sunday Ticket class action lawsuit. 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 league said.

"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 [Philip] Gutierrez throughout the trial."

Post-trial motions will be heard July 31, including one to set aside the verdict. If the verdict isn't set aside, the NFL will appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court.

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