MLB, NHL, Several RSNs Face Lawsuit Claiming "Cartel" Controls Broadcast Territories
MLB, the NHL and several RSNs have been named as defendents in a consumer-proposed class action lawsuit that claims the leagues, their teams and pay-TV companies have "engaged in an illegal cartel to geographically divide the country into territories for broadcasting the games on TV and streaming them over the Internet," according to Bob Fernandez of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The suit claims that the practice has "carved the sports market into regional monopolies for the benefit of the leagues, teams, and regional sports networks." Philadelphia-based attorney Ned Diver, the lead plaintiff's attorney in the case, said that sports teams "should be allowed to sell their games to sports fans in any TV market," which would "bring down the price of sports content on the Internet and cable for tens of millions of consumers." Diver's suit aims "to allow a sports fan to strike a relationship with a favorite team or teams without having to buy a cable package or a league package of unwanted games." It also aims "to dismantle the restrictions on how teams distribute their games on pay-TV systems." The case, filed in early '12, has "cleared its first major hurdle: a motion to dismiss by the defendants." U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin "denied the motion in December while limiting the lawsuit's scope." The case now "faces the legal obstacle course of summary judgment, class certification, and a trial." Diver and his team of plaintiffs lawyers are "gathering facts and intend to depose" MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "over the next several months" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/19).