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On Friday, August 8, 2014, the Southern District of New York denied motions for summary judgment filed by the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Comcast Corp. and DirecTV LLC in suits alleging that these organizations and television providers conspired to hinder competition in television and internet sports broadcasting. In two class action suits brought by consumers of broadcast sports, plaintiffs claimed that the leagues and television providers agreed to “black out” games so that regional sports networks faced limited competition to broadcast live events. This purportedly anti-competitive agreement forced plaintiffs to buy “out of market” packages offered by defendants, such as MLB Extra Innings, to watch live games on television or the internet if they did not live within the regional provider’s viewing territory. Laumann, et al. v. National Hockey League, et al., case number 1:12-cv-01817; Lerner v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, et al., case number 1:12-cv-03704. District Judge Shira Scheindlin determined that the questions of whether plaintiffs have provided evidence of collusion among the leagues and providers and evidence of a tacit agreement between the providers should be decided at trial by a fact finder. In addition, Judge Scheindlin refused to apply the rule established in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200, 208 (1922), that exempted Major League Baseball from the antitrust laws. She explained that Major League Baseball’s exemption did not extend to the league’s contracts for television broadcast services. A trial date has not been set.
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