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JUDGE CLEARS WGN TO TELECAST UP TO 30 BULLS GAMES
Published January 9, 1995
U.S. District Court Judge Hubert Will ruled on Friday that the NBA's efforts to force the Bulls off Chicago superstation WGN restrained trade in violation of antitrust laws. The ruling will allow telecasts of at least 30 games on WGN. The league had been trying to stop the Bulls from negotiating with WGN because the superstation reached 37% of the nation's households outside Chicago. WGN had wanted to show up to 41 games, but the NBA said WGN's "saturation" hurt the league and other "teams by reducing revenues from national, regional, and local telecasts." But Judge Will said the "NBA and the teams have never been more successful." The decision means millions for both the Bulls and the Tribune-owned WGN and will "likely protect superstations from similar attacks by other sports leagues, especially baseball." Judge Will did order the Bulls and WGN to pay the league a "reasonable" negotiated fee to show each game (Matt O'Connor, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/7). NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league would appeal the ruling, and put a "positive spin" on the decision by adding: "We wanted a fee. They didn't. ... What is important is these superstation telecasts are a league right, or the court wouldn't have upheld our right to a fee." Judge Will said evidence "revealed that superstation coverage of the Bulls and Hawks may actually have helped to promote" public interest in the league (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).