MLB Blackouts Be Gone: An Update


BLACKEDOUT5The season is three days old and I’m already seeing constant complaints about blackouts  even in areas where no one else is carrying the game.  I figured this was a good time to update my post from last June explaining the blackouts and the dedicated baseball fans challenging them.

A Quick Summary

On May 9, 2012 a legal action challenging blackout policies of MLB, the NHL and just about everyone involved with the rule making, rule enforcement, video transmission of games. According to the filing  for Garber vs the NHL, the Commissioner of Baseball et al they call MLB and its codefendents an “Illegal cartel.” They contend that the way the out-of-market game packages (Extra Innings or MLB.tv) and enforce illogical and indefensible blackouts unfairly restrains trade. Courts have in the past found that such things do restrict trade so MLB may have trouble defending that.

Since my post things have moved along at the speed of the American judicial system, in other words imperceptibly but  moving nonetheless.

Progress

In September, MLB et al filed for dismissal saying the individuals who filed the suit shouldn’t be allowed to sue because individually they had not been harmed. Besides, MLB says the blackouts are there to help they fans, not hinder trade. At that time Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, put it this way in an article by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

“Their argument is they’re not trying to do this to hurt fans.  They’re not doing this to hurt individual teams. They’re doing this for the better of the sport and fans.”

That’s an almost laughable position and one that was rejected by the judge and in her opinion. While she did dismiss parts of the complaint, including saying Garber had no standing to sue, she allowed the core of the case to move forward. If you are into legal documents you can read the complete finding here.

I spoke with Ned Diver this morning to get a current status.

“In March, the judge denied the defendants’ attempt to delay the case. As a result, we are moving ahead in discovery—collecting and reviewing documents from the defendants. The next major event will be motions for class certification over the summer.

In the interim, we continue to be interested in discussing these issues with any fans who would like to participate in the case or share their personal experiences with the blackouts. As you know, the court’s ruling in December was very strong, and we are excited to move forward with as many fans’ input and assistance as possible.”

If as so many have tweeted already this season, these blackouts have kept you from watching your team, you should contact Ned at:

Ned Diver
Langer, Grogan & Diver, P.C.
1717 Arch Street, Suite 4130
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-320-5660
[email protected]

MLB’s case is weak and case law doesn’t seem to support their position. That doesn’t mean they’ll simply surrender. As Professor Feldman told Passan:

“Depending on the cases, the leagues aren’t afraid to litigate.  The problem with litigating antitrust cases is it’s wildly unpredictable. It’s not a foregone conclusion they settle. It’s action like this that often causes the rules to change or causes leagues to soften them.”

Simple rules changes like these would be satisfactory.

1) Fox National Broadcasts would offer their alternate games through their network of regional sports networks. Let us choose the one we want to watch in a similar manner to the NFL. Fox Still gets all the viewers and it costs them nothing. The announcement of the new Fox National Sports Network – FS1 – gives them the perfect opportunity to be fan friendly. Any bets on whether they’ll take it?

2) Let us choose the broadcast team we want to listen to.  This whole idea of home area exclusivity is archaic.  It worked in the 60s but 50 years on technology and lifestyle have changed. It’s time to change it the blackout rules as well.

This legal challenge has received no publicity at all on any of the major sports networks. If it could get some mainstream news interest, MLB might well move more quickly to ease restrictions so fans can watch their team and their home announcers. Yet none of the major sports networks have mentioned it at all. I wonder why? I am $ure they have their rea$on$.

That’s a Wrap

It’s time for Bud $elig and the multi-billion dollar cartel he guides to relax the rules of the and do something for the source of their income; the fans. These idiotic home areas have no basis in common sense or marketing. The idea that I would support a team simply because I live in the same state – or in the case of Seattle the northwestern one quarter of the continental United States -is idiotic. It’s important for every fan everywhere to learn about and support Garber vs MLB.  Contact Ned Diver if you’ve been blacked without an option to see your team.  Contact Bud $elig and let him know what you think. His address is:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner
Address: 245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
City: New York, State: NY Zip Code: 10167
Phone: 212-931-7800
Fax: 212-949-5654

It can’t hurt to let Fox Sports know how you feel as well. Their address is:

Fox Sports Corporate Headquarters Office HQ:
10201 W. Pico, Bld. 103,
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Fox is the big dog in the money fight. If they change ESPN and TBS will follow.  Tell your friends to find out about and support Garber. Call the radio talk shows and ask them why they aren’t covering a story that impacts every fan in every city in this country. It’s time for MLB to end these ill-conceived, illogical,inane, nonsensical blackouts. Every fan who’s ever seen the blackout notice on the screen instead of the game they expected to watch, everyone who wants to watch their favorite team wherever they are should get behind this suit. It’s way past time to kill this relic.

Tags: MLB Blackout Policy