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NFL ordered to pay more than $4.7 billion in ‘Sunday Ticket’ class-action lawsuit

Written by on June 27, 2024

The NFL took a massive hit in the courts on Thursday, and it’s one that could affect you if you’ve purchased the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” package. A federal judge has ordered the league to pay $4.7 billion in residential class damages, and $96 million in commercial class damages at the conclusion of what has become known as the “Sunday Ticket’ case, per MMQB.

Following the loss in court, the NFL announced that it would appeal the decision. Per ESPN, there will be a hearing on July 31 for post-trial motions, including one to set aside the verdict. The NFL will appeal to the 9th Circuit. 

Here’s the statement from the league: 

“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. 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 Gutierrez throughout the trial.”

This class-action lawsuit has been making its way through the court system for nearly 10 years, and the plaintiffs sought $7 billion. The case, originally filed in 2015, revolves around “Sunday Ticket” and whether the NFL violated any antitrust laws by offering that package to consumers. Starting in 1994, the NFL began offering “Sunday Ticket” as an option for out-of-market fans who wanted to watch their home team. For instance, a Steelers fan living in Seattle wouldn’t have had many options to watch Pittsburgh play prior to 1994, but with the inception of “Sunday Ticket,” that fan had a way to watch every Steelers game. 

The argument from the plaintiffs is pretty simple: They think the NFL worked together with its network partners to inflate the price of “Sunday Ticket.” The attorney for the plaintiffs, Amanda Bonn, said that the price for “Sunday Ticket” is unaffordable for most people. 

“NFL, Fox, CBS and DirecTV agreed to make an expensive toll road that very few people would be able to afford,” Bonn said in her opening statement, via the Associated Press. “Every single competitor in this scheme benefited.”

As for the NFL, the league’s attorney, Beth Wilkinson, made the argument that “Sunday Ticket” is expensive because it’s a premium offering. 

“The case is about choice. This is a valuable, premium product. Think about all the choices available to fans. We want as many people as possible to watch the free broadcasts,” Wilkinson said, via the AP. 

The NFL designed “Sunday Ticket” so that it wouldn’t take a huge chunk of TV ratings away from its network partners, according to former NFL executive Steve Bornstein, who testified in the case. 

“The NFL always wanted ‘Sunday Ticket’ to be an additional package. That is how it is was designed since its inception,” Bornstein said.

This case covers every residential and commercial customer who subscribed to “Sunday Ticket” between 2012 and 2022, which puts the class-action number at nearly 2.5 million people, according to the AP. 

DirecTV had the “Sunday Ticket” Package from 1994 through 2022 before YouTube TV took over last season.  

When it comes to the court system, the NFL doesn’t usually let things get this far. However, the league did pay out $790 million to the city of St. Louis and several other entities after settling a case in 2021 that revolved around the relocation of the Rams

The post NFL ordered to pay more than $4.7 billion in ‘Sunday Ticket’ class-action lawsuit first appeared on CBS Sports.

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