Jury orders NFL to pay $4.7 billion in Sunday Ticket antitrust lawsuit 

National News

By Katabella Roberts 
Contributing Writer 

A Los Angeles federal jury has ordered the National Football League to pay nearly $4.8 billion in damages over antitrust violations relating to its “Sunday Ticket” programming. 

The verdict was delivered in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California on Thursday after less than a day of deliberations. 

It followed a trial that included testimony from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. 

Roughly $4.7 billion in damages was awarded to residential “Sunday Ticket” subscribers and $96 million to commercial subscribers such as restaurants and bars. Since damages can be tripled under federal antitrust laws, the NFL could end up being liable for $14.39 billion. 

The ruling stemmed from a class action lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Mucky Duck sports bar in San Francisco alleging the league “conspired” with distributor DirecTV to raise prices for the “Sunday Ticket” package, which allows viewers to watch out-of-market games but requires them to purchase access to a bundle of games to do so. 

The complaint covered 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses who paid for the “Sunday Ticket” package from DirecTV, or its subsidiaries, at any time between 2011 and 2022. 

Plaintiffs argued that the package effectively “results in the blackout or unavailability of out-of-market games” unless consumers purchase the “Sunday Ticket” package at inflated prices. They argued that the deal “results in substantial injury to competition” and violates antitrust laws. 

“This scheme restricts competition and harms Sunday Ticket purchasers. First, the total elimination of competition allows the NFL, its teams, and DirecTV to charge supracompetitive monopoly prices, rather than the prices that would exist if the 32 teams were competing for interest and distribution in a free market. Second, class members must pay for access to all 32 teams’ out-of-market games, even if they are only interested in viewing one or two teams’ games,” plaintiffs wrote in the lawsuit. 

“No other major sports league in America has such a drastic, total elimination of competition in the broadcasting of its games.” 

Lawyers for the NFL, in moving to dismiss the lawsuit, had argued the “Sunday Ticket” program was exempt from antitrust scrutiny under the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which allowed it to sell its TV rights as a group, despite the NFL consisting of 32 team owners who collectively own all the big TV rights. 

The NFL confirmed the ruling on its official website, adding that it was “disappointed” with the jury’s verdict. 

“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 in a statement. 

The league noted it plans to appeal the verdict. 

If it does, an appeal would go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then potentially to the Supreme Court. 

“We will certainly contest this decision as we believe that the class action claims in this case are baseless and without merit,” the league said. “We thank the jury for their time and service and for the guidance and oversight from Judge [Philip] Gutierrez throughout the trial.” 

The lawsuit against the NFL was initially dismissed in 2017 but reinstated by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019. 

Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, overseeing the case, ruled last year that it could move forward as a class action suit. He is set to hear post-trial motions on July 31. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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