SBJ/November 19 - 25, 2007/This Weeks News

Rangers site moving to NHL platform for now

MSG has agreed to temporarily migrate its Web site, nyrangers.com, to the NHL’s common online platform by Nov. 26 while awaiting an appeal before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to a letter the NHL board of governors received last week.

MSG and the NHL entered into a letter of agreement on Nov. 9, a week after U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska issued an opinion denying MSG’s motion for preliminary injunction to keep nyrangers.com independent.

The NHL agreed that it will assess, but not collect, fines of $100,000 for each day nyrangers.com remains independent. Those fines will be forgiven if MSG migrates the site to the common platform used by all 29 other NHL clubs by Nov. 26.

No date has been set for MSG’s appellate hearing. MSG was expected to file a brief on Nov. 16, after press time, while the league’s opposition brief is due Dec. 5 and MSG’s reply is due Dec. 12.

MSG reached the temporary agreement with the NHL to avoid league fines. Sources close to MSG said it has not wavered in its conviction that the NHL’s effort to take control of the Rangers’ digital media rights is improper.

The lawsuit MSG brought against the league in U.S. District Court on Sept. 28 accused the NHL of operating as an illegal cartel and violating antitrust provisions. MSG moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent the league from fining it $100,000 for its refusal to migrate nyrangers.com to a common league platform.

But Preska denied MSG’s request for preliminary injunction on Nov. 2, writing: “I find that the goal of building a League brand is a legitimate, procompetitive aim of the NHL and that the restriction imposed by the joint venture of not operating a rival Rangers site serves the procompetitive purposes of having League uniformity, facilitating fan navigation, attracting advertisers due to larger mass, reducing transaction costs in advertisement negotiations, and preventing individual teams from free-riding off of the League efforts.”

MSG appealed the judge’s ruling and sought a temporary injunction pending that appeal. Preska denied that motion during a telephone hearing Nov. 6, saying, “I see no likelihood of success, no probability of success at all for plaintiff on the merits.”

Despite that, MSG plans to continue with its appeal and sources close to the organization stood by its last statement, which said Preska’s decision was “one step in what will be a very long legal process.”

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