U.S. District Court judge Shira Scheindlin yesterday granted plaintiffs’ motion to certify class action status in an antitrust lawsuit against MLB and the NHL, a case that threatens to demolish the decades-old blackout system in sports media.
Scheindlin’s decision, which you can read here, finds that essentially all members of the class of consumers in the market for MLB or NHL content have the same alleged injury due to the antiquated blackout system that denies fans a la carte access to teams outside their league-mandated local market.
According to plaintiffs, the ultimate consequence of this arrangement is that a Yankees fan living in Iowa who wants full access to a season’s worth of Yankees games has to buy an “out-of-market package” (“OMP”) — a bundle of all out-of-market games, from every team — instead of simply buying the YES Network. In plaintiffs’ view, this restraint is unnatural and anticompetitive. In its absence, RSNs would distribute their content nationwide in a la carte form, and an Iowa-based Yankees fan (for instance) would be able to choose between (1) buying the YES Network by itself, or (2) buying an OMP. Furthermore, the competition between these options would also push the price of the OMP down.
The lawsuits were originally filed in 2012. A decision in the District Court earlier this year rejected MLB’s attempt to apply its antitrust exemption in the case.