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NFL Ordered by Jury to Pay Over $4 Billion in Damages in Sunday Ticket Case

The National Football League has been ordered to pay approximately $4.7 billion in damages after it lost a jury trial regarding the anticompetitive aspects of the NFL Sunday Ticket broadcast package. Following deliberation, a jury in Los Angeles federal court sided with the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit on Thursday afternoon. The jury vote claims that the league colluded with DirecTV, CBS and FOX to raise the price of subscriptions to watch out-of-market games.

The league has now been ordered by the jury to pay $96.9 million in damages to the commercial class and $4.61 billion in damages to the residential class. These damages are also tripled under federal antitrust law, thus equating to more than $14 billion. U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez could still rule in a manner that would eliminate the jury verdict. In a statement released shortly after the ruling, the league stated that it will appeal the decision.

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“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict today in the NFL Sunday Ticket class action lawsuit,” a spokesperson for the National Football 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.”

NFL Sunday Ticket is currently available through YouTube and YouTube TV as part of a media rights deal valued at a reported $2 billion annually over seven years. The broadcast package had previously been distributed by DirecTV, which is said to have paid $1.5 billion per year. DirecTV was not involved in the trial after the judge agreed to allow it to send customer claims against the company into closed-door arbitration.

Within the trial, it was revealed that the NFL declined a proposal from ESPN to lower the price of the package to $70 per year and include single-team packages. NFL Sunday Ticket currently costs $349 per year on YouTube TV, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling it a “premium product” during the trial.

“We will certainly contest this decision as we believe that the class action claims in this case are baseless and without merit,” a spokesperson for the National Football League said in a statement. “We thank the jury for their time and service and for the guidance and oversight from Judge Gutierrez throughout the trial.”

NFL games were responsible for 93 of the 100 most-watched television broadcasts in the United States last year, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of over 2.4 million residential subscribers and over 48,000 commercial establishments that purchased NFL Sunday Ticket.

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