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Friday, July 19, 2024
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What Does the Landmark NFL Sunday Ticket Verdict Mean for Fans?

  • A jury judgment has the NFL on the hook for $14 billion to fans and bars.
  • Subscribers could possibly receive a few thousand dollars each, but that could take years.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, a jury ordered the NFL to pay consumers and commercial establishments $4.7 billion for violating antitrust law with its Sunday Ticket streaming package. It’s a monumental loss for the NFL in court, one that will be tripled under federal antitrust law to more than $14 billion if higher courts uphold the verdict.

Millions of subscribers and tens of thousands of bars and restaurants stand to see a substantial payout from the settlement, and how the league makes out-of-market games available could change. But those payouts and overhauls are a long way from happening; a lot of court rulings have to go their way for consumers to actually see any of that money.

Here’s what you need to know if you’ve subscribed to Sunday Ticket.

Who qualifies for these payments?

The class action suit casts a very wide net. Any commercial or residential subscribers who had Sunday Ticket on DirecTV between June 17, 2011, and Feb. 7, 2023, are eligible. Subscribers had to actually pay for Sunday Ticket through DirecTV to get any money, so if you got it for free or through the NFLST.tv streaming service, I’m sorry to bear the bad news. This is according to the website dedicated to the lawsuit.

Anyone could opt out of the case if they wanted to keep their rights to sue the league about Sunday Ticket–related issues, but that deadline passed in October 2023. If you didn’t opt out by then, you’re automatically a member of the class.

When will subscribers get their money?

Even though a verdict has been delivered, the case will take a long time to reach its conclusion.

The league will file post-trial motions for the judge to hear on July 31. Judge Philip Gutierrez—who had earlier told the plaintiffs’ attorneys that they had overcomplicated the case—wasn’t required to send the case to a jury in the first place, and he has the power to overrule its decision.

If that doesn’t work, the NFL has already said it will appeal the case. The case would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and could eventually make its way all the way to the Supreme Court if the two sides keep fighting. It could take years before the NFL actually has to pay up, because all damages are stayed until the appeals process ends.

How much money are we talking about?

If you’ve seen different numbers floating around the internet, that’s because no one truly knows what the payments will be.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys could take up to 40% of the total amount designated for subscribers, estimates the longtime attorney and football writer Mike Florio. The remaining money would mean that each of the 2.4 million residential class members could get an average of $3,450 apiece.


But will you get more money if you paid for Sunday Ticket for all 12 years the lawsuit covers? What about just one season? Again, nobody really knows. It will be up to the courts to review and approve the amount the attorneys take and how much trickles down to subscribers.

Is this the amount the plaintiffs wanted?

Nope.

The plaintiffs sought $7 billion in damages, which would then under federal antitrust laws get tripled to $21 billion. The jurors came up with their own model for what they felt plaintiffs deserved.

Is Sunday Ticket going to get less expensive?

Probably not anytime soon.

Any changes required by the NFL for the Sunday Ticket offering are stayed on appeal, which is court-speak to say the league wouldn’t have to make any adjustments required of it until the appeals process is over. While the lawsuit centers on the DirecTV era of Sunday Ticket—the suit began in 2015—the package is currently $349 annually on YouTube TV.

If the judge upholds the verdict, but before the appeals process, he could consider structural changes to Sunday Ticket, but those wouldn’t go into effect until after the appeals process. During the trial, it was revealed that the NFL declined an ESPN offer to make Sunday Ticket $70 per year with options for single-team subscriptions, as well as scrapped a proposal to do away with the offering altogether and put games on various cable channels.

So how likely is it that these payouts actually hit consumers?

It all depends on how the case does in court, or whether the NFL decides to settle with the plaintiffs’ attorneys out of court. They’ve so far been happy to contest it in the legal system, and this litigation has been working its way through the courts for nearly a decade. It’s not inconceivable that 2010s Sunday Ticket subscribers could get a check with a couple of thousand dollars from the NFL, but we’re a long way from that day.

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