SBD/November 13, 2013/Media

Lawmakers Introduce Bill That Would Put An End To Sports Blackouts

McCain's bill would force leagues to make games available online
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday introduced a bill "that would end sports blackouts," according to Kate Tummarello of THE HILL. The FCC earlier this month announced that it is "considering ending its sports blackout rules, but leagues would still be able to negotiate blackouts with TV companies directly." The bill -- titled the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (FANS) Act -- would "eliminate those FCC rules and require that sports leagues make games available online, either for a fee or for free, if they're not available on TV." Additionally, the bill would "prevent broadcasters from using sports blackouts as a bargaining chip during contracting disputes with cables and satellite providers." Blumenthal in a statement said, "This legislation would protect fans who now get the short end of the stick from leagues that treat the public with contempt while continuing to enjoy public benefits" (THEHILL.com, 11/12). BROADCASTING & CABLE's John Eggerton noted if MLB, the NFL, NBA or NHL "opted to include blackouts, they would lose the antitrust exemptions that allow them to collectively negotiate exclusive rights deals." MLB has an "even broader antitrust exemption." Eliminating the antitrust exemption for sports blackouts "would mean that the NFL could no longer black out games in a home market if a game were not sold out (or in some cases mostly sold) 72 hours in advance." That was a way to "insure that TV did not eat into ticket sales, but the bill’s authors suggest there is no longer evidence such blackouts drive fans to the sports venues" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 11/12). U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) "introduced a companion bill in the House" (ADWEEK.com, 11/12).
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