Hulk Hogan Offers Up Expert Testifying to Gawker's Increased Value From Sex Tape

Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media March 1 - AP Images - 2016
Scott Keeler/The Tampa Bay Times via AP, Pool, File

On Friday, Hulk Hogan concluded all testimony meant to establish that Gawker violated his privacy and publicity rights in October 2012 through the posting of his sex tape. On the verge of wrapping Hogan's case, the plaintiff's legal team called upon a parade of experts to discuss the benefit that Gawker received from a video seen by millions.

The testimony wasn't nearly as engrossing as Hogan's own moments on the witness stand, where the celebrity described just how a sex tape featuring him sleeping with his friend's wife came to be and how Gawker's publishing of it turned his "world upside down." Nor was it as intendedly sickening as what jurors heard in taped depositions of Gawker staffers.

But the presentation of Hogan's experts, who talked rather tediously about digital marketing and web analytics, was certainly directed to the jury's ears with a clear goal. If those jurors ultimately decide to punish Gawker, they will need to arrive at some way to calculate damages.

And so, Shanti Shunn, a digital marketing expert, told the jury that Hogan's sex tape was viewed nearly 4.5 million times on of, and Jeff Anderson, a specialist in intellectual property valuation, gave his conclusion that the spike in traffic in the months after the posting benefited Gawker by at least $5 million, and more likely, about $15 million. Hogan's witness says the "fair market value" for Gawker is $286 million. Hogan's legal team also presented a deposition by Kevin Blatt, who said he brokered sex tapes involving Kim Kardashian and Tila Tequila, to buttress the value of what Gawker had given its audiences.

To each of these witnesses, Gawker attempted to pour cold water on the methodology behind their conclusions. For example, on cross-examination, Shunn acknowledged that it was unclear whether some of the numbers he cited referred to page views or unique visitors while Anderson admitted that he wasn't aware of a single instance where his web traffic-based valuation method had ever been used to appraise a website's increased value to a single post. 

Hogan has asserted $100 million in damages, and in opening statements, his attorney told the jury they should hold Gawker accountable by paying back the benefit it received and giving Hogan a fee for each visitor who viewed the sex tape. Hogan also wants damages for emotional distress.

Before breaking for the weekend, Gawker made a motion for a directed verdict, saying that Hogan hadn't proved an invasion of privacy, a misappropriation of publicity rights, an infliction of emotional distress nor wiretapping. Florida Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell denied Gawker's attempt to end the case. She also rejected Gawker's bid to free Gawker owner Nick Denton from personal liability in this matter.

Next week, Gawker presents its defense. So far, the jury has not gotten a chance to see more than a brief glimpse of the sex tape.