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US sports TV subscribers sue leagues and broadcasters

US pay-television subscribers have been granted permission to pursue a lawsuit accusing several television networks, the Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League of antitrust violations related to the packaging of sports events for exploitation on television and internet platforms, according to the Reuters news agency.

The subscribers are complaining because they are unable to buy sports television packages which allow them to watch only the matches of the teams that they are interested in – particularly their local teams – and must instead buy packages featuring matches of many or all teams in the leagues which they follow.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin, in a court Manhattan, New York, said subscribers of sports programming packages could pursue claims that the packaging of matches has reduced competition, raised prices and prevented subscribers from watching their favourite teams.

“Plaintiffs in this case – the consumers – have plausibly alleged that they are the direct victims of this harm,” Judge Scheindlin wrote. “Making all games available as part of a package, while it may increase output overall, does not, as a matter of law, eliminate the harm to competition wrought by preventing the individual teams from competing to sell their games outside their home territories in the first place.”

The defendants in the case include cable television company Comcast, satellite television provider DirecTV and regional sports networks including the Yes Network. The MLB, North America’s top baseball league, and the NHL, the ice hockey league, are also among the dozens of defendants, along with several of the leagues’ teams.