MLB Faces Antitrust Suit Regarding Its TV Blackout Policies. May 12, 2012
I’m pasting some of this here in case the article “disappears” again:
Major League Baseball’s television blackout policies are the subject of a class action antitrust lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday in the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs in Garber v. MLB allege that the league has violated Sections One and Two of the Sherman Act by unfairly restricting its fans’ ability to watch out-of-market broadcasts in two primary ways. First, through its MLB Extra Innings cable package and MLB.tv Internet package, MLB refuses to offer fans the ability to purchase just their favorite team’s games, instead requiring consumers to purchase a package including all out-of-market MLB broadcasts. Second, both the Extra Innings and MLB.tv packages blackout any games broadcast locally via a regional sports network (RSN), meaning that fans cannot use those packages to watch their local team play, but must instead purchase a cable subscription to watch the games on their local RSN. The complaint alleges that these exclusive broadcasting policies drive up subscription fees for all cable consumers by enabling the RSNs to charge monopoly prices for their highly desirable sports programming.
…Interestingly, the Garber suit does not name all 30 MLB teams as defendants, instead suing only the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners, along with the Office of the Commissioner, MLB Advanced Media, DirecTV, Comcast, and various RSNs.
…It will also be interesting to see if the Garber lawsuit finally motivates MLB to update its antiquated television blackout policies. The rules have been frequently criticized by baseball fans, and can lead to absurd outcomes such as fans in Iowa being unable to watch any game involving the Twins, Royals, White Sox, Brewers, Cubs, or Cardinals on either the MLB Extra Innings or MLB.tv packages, even though in many cases none of those teams’ games are available from their local cable provider. MLB has reportedly been considering updating the rules for years, but has yet to act. Perhaps this threat to its cherished antitrust exemption, along with potential treble damages, will finally force the league to act.
Complete article in Sports Law Blog: