Professional sports in America and antitrust law have gone hand-in-hand in the US for almost as long as professional sports have been around. Although professional sports teams are each run as their own businesses, the fact is that those teams generally operate in a single league which dominates the market for a given sport (remember when the USFL lasted for only three seasons in the 1980s against the NFL, and the XFL barely made it through one in 2001?). In many ways, courts and the federal legislature have carved out antitrust exemptions for professional sports leagues, but the business is nevertheless subject to antitrust challenges. One such challenge brought against Major League Baseball (MLB) and resolved in 2016 means that cable subscribers, among other things, will be able to stream “blacked out” in-market games at the beginning of the 2017 MLB season.
The Antitrust Action Brought Against MLB
In 2012, baseball fans brought an antitrust class action against MLB for the way that it sold access to baseball games in out-of-market territories. While baseball games were broadcast over the air and through regional cable channels, these games were often limited to the teams in a given region, and the only way for viewers to get consistent access to out-of-market teams was through an expensive service that required them to subscribe to all MLB games, not just the team a fan wished to follow. Thus, if an Alabama resident wanted to follow the Milwaukee Brewers or a Florida resident wanted to follow the New York Yankees, they were forced to buy far more services than they wanted to simply follow their team.
The New York federal judge presiding over the case made a crucial ruling in the class action litigation that a long-held exemption for professional baseball did not apply to the allegations raised by the plaintiff class, and thus the case could proceed. This opened the path to a historic settlement between MLB and the fans that made up the class.
The Terms of the MLB Antitrust Settlement
Under the settlement which was finalized in January 2016, MLB agreed to a number of concessions, including the following:
- The ability of consumers to purchase a “single-team” subscription to watch a specific team's games at a discounted price from the full league-wide subscription
- A reduction in the cost of the league-wide subscription
- The ability of consumers to pay slightly extra to receive TV access to “blacked out” games
- Requiring MLB to offer streaming coverage of “blacked out” games to cable subscribers of regional sports networks
Contact an Antitrust Class Action Attorney Today
Herrington Law in Jackson, Mississippi has become a class action leader because of its constant focus on what matters most: obtaining justice for individual plaintiffs who have been wronged by defendants. We have built strong relationships over the decades with co-counsel across the country, all in pursuit of providing outstanding outcomes for the people who matter most: our clients. Contact us to set up a free consultation today regarding filing or joining an antitrust class action lawsuit.