By Joe Lucia, Awful Announcing
The opening salvo has been fired: a group of baseball fans has filed a class-action lawsuit against MLB (as well as DirecTV and Comcast) in regards to how the MLB divides up TV markets of various clubs, and the litany of blackouts that plague fans for local games.
Here at AA, the MLB's blackout rules are something we have talked about time and time again. It's a situation that we, along with nearly every baseball fan in the country, absolutely despise and hope gets taken behind the woodshed.
The official wording in the lawsuit states that MLB and its teams are an "illegal cartel" that make "agreements to eliminate competition in the distribution of games over the Internet and television." The lawsuit then goes on to go after the cable companies, saying their goal is "to divide the live-game video presentation market into exclusive territories, which are protected by anticompetitive blackouts. Not only are such agreements not necessary to producing baseball contests, they are directed at reducing competition in the live-game video presentation market, involving and protecting third parties who operate only in that separate market."
Perhaps the more important part of this lawsuit is the calling of MLB's anti-trust exemption into question. MLB apparently doesn't want to have to resort to that though, because they don't want to go down that road and possibly have the exemption, which is unique to MLB among the other pro sports leagues, come under question. The NFL's request for a broad anti-trust exemption was denied in 2010. The same thing happened with the NHL in 2008.
Whatever happens with this case, it will be one that fans across the country are going to keep their eyes on. The end result of this case could affect more than blackouts when all is said and done, however.
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