A law firm that recently brought a similar suit against the NHL is now bringing a suit against the MLB and several of its teams. The lawsuit complains that the MLB, teams, and cable companies improperly divide up viewing markets and create blackout for local games.
In general, there are two kinds of TV blackouts: local and national. On a national level, because of exclusivity agreements Major League Baseball has with its national broadcasters, Fox and ESPN, if a game is being broadcast nationally on either of these channels, it is "blacked out" on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.tv no matter where you live. (MLB's blackout policy can be found here).
Additionally, there are local blackouts that can impact a fan's ability to view up to six teams,depending on where you live. Blackouts are determined by this extra-confusing map of MLB television territories. For example, in Iowa, the following teams' games are blacked out: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
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."
Most importantly, the complaint alleges violations of Section One and Two of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which the MLB has been exempt from since 1922. However, courts have been divided on how that exemption applies.
For more details regarding this lawsuit continue reading here.
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