Judge Allows Fans' Lawsuit Against Leagues, Networks Over Packaging Of Game Telecasts
A federal judge in N.Y. yesterday “allowed sports fans to pursue a lawsuit" accusing MLB, the NHL and several media companies of antitrust violations in how they package games for broadcast on TV or the Internet, according to Stempel & Baker of REUTERS. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said that the subscribers “could pursue claims that the packaging has reduced competition, raised prices, and kept them from watching their favorite teams located outside their home markets.” The defendants include MLB, the NHL, various teams in both leagues, Comcast, DirecTV, and MSG, and other RSNs. The subscribers in the suit contended that if they "wanted to watch games from outside their home markets, they were required to buy packages that included all out-of-market games, even if they were interested only in one or a few nonlocal teams.” The packages “at issue” include MLB Extra Innings and NHL Center Ice for TV and MLB.tv and NHL GameCenter LIVE for the web. Scheindlin dismissed claims that Comcast, DirecTV and other nets "conspired to monopolize markets," but allowed "similar claims against" MLB and the NHL to proceed. Among the “dozens of defendants" were the Yankees, YES Network, the White Sox, the Blackhawks, the NHL Rangers and various Comcast SportsNet and Root Sports RSNs (REUTERS, 12/5). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jeff Passan wrote if MLB were to “avoid settling and lose, the consequences could change the league's TV structure -- for worse, it contends.” The league “fears a TV policy without restrictions would harm smaller-market teams, which would face competition from the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and other high-profile, big-money teams looking to expand their reach beyond local markets” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/5).