Jury rules NFL violated antitrust laws in ‘Sunday Ticket’ case and awards $4.7 billion in damages

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ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 29: NFL Sunday Ticket at the Super Bowl LIII Experience on January 29, 2019 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. 

Rich Graessle | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

A jury in U.S. District Court ruled Thursday the NFL violated antitrust laws in distributing out-of-market Sunday afternoon games on a premium subscription services and has awarded nearly $4.7 billion in damages.

The jury ordered the league to pay $4 billion in damages to the residential class and $96 million in damages to the commercial class.

The lawsuit covered 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses who paid for the package of out-of-market games from the 2011 through 2022 seasons on DirecTV. The lawsuit claimed the league broke antitrust laws by selling its package of Sunday games at an inflated price. The subscribers also say the league restricted competition by offering “Sunday Ticket” only on a satellite provider.

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

The NFL is expected to appeal to the 9th Circuit and then possibly the Supreme Court.

“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 league maintained it has the right to sell “Sunday Ticket” under its antitrust exemption for broadcasting. The plaintiffs say that only covers over-the-air broadcasts and not pay TV.

DirecTV had “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 originally filed in 2015 by the Mucky Duck sports bar in San Francisco 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, reinstated the case. Gutierrez ruled last year the case could proceed as a class action.

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