Sports Broadcasters Facing Antitrust Lawsuits

nyy_1200x630By Talia Loucks

Sports fans that live far from their favorite teams have a difficult time watching games. I discovered this in the 90s when I was a Seahawks fan living in Colorado. The agreements between regional sports networks, the teams, and television service providers make it extremely difficult for out-of-market fans to access games. Baseball and hockey fans, however, are currently trying to fix this. Out-of-market fans won a small victory this past May when Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a motion for a class action certification.

The cases, Garber v. MLB and Laumann v. NHL, are antitrust challenges to sports broadcasting. Plaintiffs in both cases are challenging the multilateral agreements between the leagues (MLB and NHL), regional sports networks (“RSNs”), and multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”)—DirecTV and Comcast—“that limit options, and increase prices, for baseball and hockey fans that want to watch teams from outside the home television territory (“HTT”) where the fans live.” Fans, who live in cities far from the teams they love, must purchase out-of-market packages that broadcast all games outside of the market. Furthermore, because of the exclusivity of networks such as the Yankees Entertainment Sports Network (“YES”) and other similar team-specific networks, often fans that have purchased out-of-market packages still cannot watch their favorite teams. Continue reading