Jury Orders NFL to Pay $4.8 Billion for Sunday Ticket Antitrust Price-Fixing Conspiracy

Jury Orders NFL to Pay $4.8 Billion for Sunday Ticket Antitrust Price-Fixing Conspiracy

One verdict against the National Football League (NFL) has marked a major moment in the sports industry. Recently, a California federal jury awarded nearly $5 billion in damages to both commercial and residential consumers of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket.

This landmark ruling has legal implications for both businesses and individual subscribers across the United States.

Understanding the Basis of the Lawsuit Filed Against the NFL

The NFL Sunday Ticket allows subscribers to watch all NFL games through DirecTV, which had the exclusive rights to broadcast them. Instead of just viewing games in their local market, subscribers could watch matchups across the country.

However, there were allegations of price-fixing. The plaintiffs alleged that the NFL, DirecTV, Fox, and CBS conspired to keep prices artificially higher for consumers. One focus of the case rested on the fact that the NFL and its partners limited competition to maintain their high prices.

Those actions prevented others from offering similar services, which was seen as a way to control the pricing and market. In turn, this violated antitrust lawsuits by creating a monopoly and promoting unfair marketplace competition.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys stressed that these anti-competitive behaviors lead to higher consumer costs. Despite the promise of access to all games, the conspiracy also limited the number of games subscribers could view in their markets. In turn, that may have harmed individual subscribers and businesses relying on the subscription package to attract customers.

The Trial and Verdict Reached Against the NFL

The case focused on the NFL’s alleged participation in a conspiracy to manipulate the price of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package. Throughout the four-week trial, there were stunning insights into internal NFL practices. Additionally, the defendants featured testimonies from notable figures, such as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The verdict will likely have implications for how professional sports leagues and organizations conduct their business practices in the future.

The Los Angeles-based trial resulted in a landmark decision. After four weeks of presenting evidence, the jury awarded $96 million in damages in the commercial class, with over 48,000 businesses that subscribed to Sunday Ticket from 2011 to 2023.

Additionally, $4.7 billion was awarded to 2.4 million subscribers who used this service for residential use. Both class members had up to October 2023 to opt out of the class action lawsuit; otherwise, they were automatically included in the case.

Bill Carmody, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney from Susman Godfrey LLP, described the verdict as a major win for American consumers. He emphasized that the jurors upheld the country’s antitrust laws despite the defense’s arguments to the contrary. Carmody mentioned in his closing arguments that this class action was “the biggest case in America.”

During the trial, the plaintiff’s legal team presented compelling evidence, including a 2009 email from Sean McManus. The then-chairman of CBS Sports sent an email about his concerns about the pricing strategy for NFL Sunday Ticket. This email suggested that the league was aware of these practices and remained complicit in maintaining high prices to limit distribution.

While the NFL stressed that DirecTV was responsible for the price of Sunday Ticket, the plaintiffs’ evidence suggested otherwise. Another piece of key evidence included a 2015 document showing that DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket pricing was subject to NFL approval.

After considering all that evidence and testimonies, the jury decided that the NFL violated antitrust laws, resulting in the aforementioned $4.8 billion in damages.

How the Verdict Impact Businesses and Individual Consumers?

The NFL has announced its intention to appeal the decision. In many high-stakes antitrust cases, a settlement is often reached before the appeals process is exhausted. Since the league faces the potential tripling of the damages awarded under the treble damages rule, which could reach $14.39 billion in damages, they may be incentivized to settle the case.

While a settlement would lower the jury’s award, it does provide a quicker resolution and compensation for all affected parties. A settlement can be beneficial for the plaintiffs as it offers certainty and immediate financial relief. Additionally, it can avoid the risks of the appeal process, which could result in a reduced award or even a reversal of the verdict.

Anyone affected, whether a business or individual, should seek legal advice to fully understand their rights and potential compensation. The scope of this case covers both commercial and residential subscribers who have been financially impacted by the inflated prices of the Sunday Ticket package for more than a decade.

How Our Legal Team Can Help If You’ve Been Affected by This Price Fixing Situation

At Hendrickson & Long, PLLC, our legal team can assist with cases involving antitrust and consumer protection law violations, like the recent Sunday Ticket ruling. We are here to help everyone who has suffered due to the price-fixing conspiracy by ensuring they are informed about their legal standing and their possible entitlement to compensation.

Whether the NFL chooses to prolong litigation to settle with consumers, we are preparing for both scenarios. For those impacted by the NFL’s price-fixing conspiracy, now is the time to seek legal counsel to explore your rights and potential compensation.

At Hendrickson & Long, PLLC, we can provide clarity and support in the aftermath of this monumental verdict. By taking action now, you can position yourself to benefit from any settlements or court-ordered compensation that may arise from this historic case.

If you or your business subscribed to NFL Sunday Ticket between 2011 and 2023, we can discuss this case further and inform you of your class action rights and other issues that may affect your claim.