Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

A jury found against the NFL on Thursday in a long-running lawsuit over how the league distributes its TV broadcasts, a decision that could reshape how fans watch the country’s most popular sport. A group of plaintiffs that purchased the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package won a judgment of $4.7 billion from the jury, while another group of bar owners was awarded $96 million. Both amounts could be tripled because of antitrust laws.

The NFL immediately said it would appeal.

“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict today in the NFL Sunday Ticket class-action lawsuit,” the league said in a statement. “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 case centered on how the NFL sold its Sunday Ticket package to DirecTV, a satellite TV service. Sunday Ticket is a package that shows the league’s out-of-market Sunday games.

For years, the NFL sold that package to DirecTV (it moved to Google’s YouTube last year) and plaintiffs argued that the NFL selling the games in a single package to a single distributor violated antitrust laws by not offering consumers more choice and artificially inflating the cost. The league countered that Sunday Ticket is a “premium product” and the league’s system for distributing its games allowed most of its games to be available on broadcast television.

No immediate changes will occur as the case continues to be litigated, but Dan Rascher, an economic expert for the plaintiffs, said one possible outcome is that Sunday Ticket is sold to multiple companies and potentially at a lower price.

“The other outcome is the teams can’t collude on selling their media rights,” he said. “That means selling their own games, where you’d end up with lots of games on lots of channels on Sunday.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as well as several TV executives, were among the witnesses called to testify during the three-week trial in Los Angeles.

The NFL makes around $20 billion annually in revenue, according to Sportico.

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