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NFL hit with $4.7 billion verdict in ‘Sunday Ticket’ antitrust trial

The National Football League must pay more than $4.7 billion in class-action damages for overcharging subscribers of its “Sunday Ticket” telecasts, a California federal jury said on Thursday. Jurors in Los Angeles agreed with the plaintiffs that the NFL conspired with member teams to artificially inflate the price of “Sunday Ticket” for millions of residential and commercial subscribers. The jury awarded $4.6 billion to a residential class, and $96 million to commercial subscribers such as bars and restaurants, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs. A judge could award triple damages under US antitrust law, bringing the total judgment to more than $14 billion. The NFL in a statement said it was disappointed by the jury’s verdict. “We will certainly contest this decision as we believe that the class action claims in this case are baseless and without merit,” it said. The NFL earlier this week asked the court to rule for the league and its teams as a matter of law, which could nullify the verdict. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in a statement on Thursday said: “We are pleased with today’s result on behalf of the classes we represent.” The trial, which began on June 5, capped more than a decade of litigation over the “Sunday Ticket” telecasts. The subscribers accused the NFL of using agreements with broadcast partners to keep a stranglehold over distribution, allowing DirecTV to charge artificially higher prices as the former sole distributor of “Sunday Ticket.” A residential subscription to “Sunday Ticket,” which is the only broadcast option for fans to watch out-of-market games, now costs as much as $449 through its current distributor, Google’s YouTube. DirecTV and Google were not defendants in the trial. DirecTV is owned by AT&T and Google is owned by Alphabet. The plaintiffs claimed that “Sunday Ticket” prices were inflated to limit subscriptions and protect distribution rights fees that CBS and Fox paid to air games in local markets. The NFL denied any wrongdoing and argued that “Sunday Ticket” is a “premium” product that expands viewers’ access to games, which are already broadcast for free on local networks. The plaintiffs are DirecTV subscribers who bought “NFL Sunday Ticket” between June 2011 and February 2023. The case includes at least 2.4 million residential customers and 48,000 commercial subscribers like bars and restaurants, according to court records.