Sports fans have received the OK from a U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin to pursue a lawsuit against the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and several other networks, claiming antitrust violations in how the games are packaged for broadcast on television or the internet.
The case arose from what the subscribers said were anticompetitive “blackout” agreements between service providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, sports networks and the leagues.
These subscribers 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.
For example, a New York Yankees fan living in Colorado could not pay simply for access to that team’s games, but had to buy a product such as the MLB Extra Innings television package.
The subscribers sought damages and a halt to arrangements that they said resulted in “reduced output, diminished product quality, diminished choice and suppressed price competition.”
The defendants include Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, several teams in both sports, cable TV company Comcast Corp, satellite TV provider DirecTV, Madison Square Garden Co and some regional sports networks.