Fans Granted Class Certification in NHL and MLB Blackout Litigation
On Thursday, May 14, Judge Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, granted class certification to the consumers suing the MLB, NHL, and broadcasters over blackout dates and high prices for sports packages.
The fans brought their lawsuit back in 2012 against both leagues, individual clubs, Comcast, and DirecTV, claiming that broadcast restrictions violated antitrust law. Those restrictions specifically include territorial blackouts for consumers who purchase large sports packages claiming to carry all games as well as many providers’ requirement that consumers purchase broadcasts of every game instead of select games based on teams. After surviving motions for summary judgment, which would dismiss the claims, the plaintiff fans sought class certification to combine all the lawsuits into one.
Judge Scheindlin agreed with the plaintiffs that they suffered a common injury and granted class certification. She stated “[e]very class member has suffered an injury, because every class member, as a consumer in the market for baseball or hockey broadcasting, has been deprived of an option — a la carte channels — that would have been available absent the territorial restraints.” She also imposed a significant restraint on the plaintiffs in certifying their class: they may only seek injunctive relief to change the way the leagues broadcast, and they may not seek monetary damages.