MLB, broadcasters settle fans' lawsuit over TV blackouts

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 19, 2016 1:52 PM

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major League Baseball said it had settled a lawsuit filed against it by fans unhappy about restrictions on watching their favorite teams play on TV.

"We can confirm that a settlement of the Garber case has been reached. Because the process remains ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further at this time," Major League Baseball said in a statement posted on its website.

At issue were agreements that limit where certain games can be broadcast which consumers said resulted in anticompetitive blackouts that forced them to pay more to see matches.[nL1N0Y51

Trial in the case had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday, according to the court docket. The case had been filed in 2012 against Major League Baseball, DirecTV, Comcast Corp and others.E9]

Major League Baseball did not give details of the agreement.

NBC Sports Regional Networks said in a statement that they were "pleased with the settlement and look forward to partnering with Major League Baseball to enable our regional sports networks' offering of live in-market streaming of games to subscribers."

A spokesman for AT&T, which closed its acquisition of DirecTV last year, had no immediate comment.

Typically, regional sports networks have exclusive rights to broadcast professional baseball and hockey games in their home markets, but cannot broadcast those games elsewhere.

Sports fans, however, complained that this allows professional sports leagues to charge premium prices to watch games outside home markets - for example, if a San Francisco resident wanted to watch the New York Yankees.

The settlement followed a deal struck by the National Hockey League in June to allow fans to watch their favorite teams play outside their home markets without having to pay extra for a league-wide bundle of games.

The case at the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York is Garber et al v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al in the same court, No. 12-03074.