Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

LOS ANGELES — A jury in U.S. District Court ruled Thursday that the NFL violated antitrust laws in distributing out-of-market Sunday afternoon games on a premium subscription service and has awarded more than $4.7 billion in damages.

The jury ordered the league to pay $4.7 billion in damages to the residential class and $96 million in damages to the commercial class.

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.

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 a decision.

“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 covers only 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 that the case could proceed as a class action.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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