Judge Orders NFL to Pay Billions in Antitrust Trial

After finding that the NFL broke antitrust rules by airing Sunday afternoon games on DirecTV, a premium subscription service, even though the games weren’t played in the market, a jury in U.S. District Court ordered the league to pay penalties of roughly $4.8 billion. 

The business class received $96 million in damages, while the residential class received $4.7 billion.

Under federal antitrust statutes, fines can be doubled, meaning the NFL might wind up paying $14.39 billion in damages.

The case named all 48,000 US companies and 2.4 million US residential users who paid for DirecTV’s out-of-market game package from 2011 through 2022. The league allegedly infringed antitrust rules by charging too much for its Sunday game package and limiting competition by making “Sunday Ticket” available only through a satellite provider.

A federal judge found the NFL guilty Thursday of engaging in anticompetitive price fixing for its “Sunday Ticket” TV package, which resulted in higher rates for fans and companies. Rather than allowing fans to purchase out-of-market games individually or per team, the league allegedly compelled them to pick Sunday Ticket to watch out-of-market games.

Since the NFL considers the class action allegations in this case to be without merit and basis, it intends to appeal Judge Phillip Gutierrez’s judgment. 

Consumers’ perceptions of NFL games would shift significantly if the league lost its allure. Other streaming services, like ESPN’s $70 plan, may be able to provide the “Sunday Ticket” for far less money.

From its start in 1994 until 2022, DirecTV featured “Sunday Ticket.” The 2023 season marked the beginning of the league’s seven-year partnership with YouTube TV, a product of Google. 

The San Francisco sports bar Mucky Duck brought the case in 2015, but it was dismissed in 2017. Two years later, the 9th Circuit re-instated the case, and last year, Judge Gutierrez determined that the lawsuit may move forward as a class action.