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MLB’s Broadcast Monopoly Status Might Be Showing Some Cracks


You may have heard by now that a New York federal judge ruled last Friday that MLB’s antitrust exemption does not apply to broadcast rights.  The story gets its best treatment here:

Judge Rules MLB’s Antitrust Exemption Doesn’t Apply to Television Broadcast Rights

This could be a very big deal because currently, MLB controls nearly practically every aspect of the audio and video distribution of its product to the fans who live outside their favorite teams’ designated territories.  This is a right they claim by dint of the antitrust exemption they gained in the Supreme Court ruling Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League in 1922.  The exemption has long been interpreted by MLB as allowing them to prevent other concerns from delivering this audio and video content as competitors.

Now U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has thrown a monkey wrench into the works by rejecting motions for summary judgements—essentially a dismissal—of a class-action suit brought by a group of fans who maintain that MLB and their constituent clubs are an “illegal cartel” that make “agreements to eliminate competition in the distribution of games over the Internet and television.”  They further contend that MLB, satellite and cable companies collude “to divide the live-game video presentation market into exclusive territories, which are protected by anticompetitive blackouts. Not only are such agreements not necessary to producing baseball contests, they are directed at reducing competition in the live-game video presentation market, involving and protecting third parties who operate only in that separate market.”  Pretty strong stuff, but it does have to be this strong out of the gate to be taken seriously.

Two weeks previosuly, 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski wrote an opinion in the suit by the city of San Jose against MLB, for preventing the movement of the Oakland A’s franchise there, that some interpreted as being favorable for maintaining MLB’s out of market broadcast monopoly as well by defining the antitrust exemption on very broad terms, due to the decision made in the Flood v. Kuhn case in 1972 as well as “congressional acquiescence”.  But the ruling by Scheindlin flew in the face of that broad interpretation, carving out an exception for the out of market broadcast rights on the grounds that MLB had not “demonstrated that exceptional circumstances warrant the requested relief” from the class action lawsuit challenging their monopoly out of market delivery status.

What this boils down to at the moment is that there is potentially a sharp disagreement between the Circuit Court level and the District Court level as to how broadly the Antitrust Exemption can be interpreted as applying to MLB’s scope of business.  It’s possible that both these cases could end up at the Supreme Court at some point, but because the out of market broadcast suit is only at the District Court level and in fact has yet to even be certified as a class action suit, which won’t happen until later this month, we are probably looking at several years before a decision favorable to out of market consumers could be made.

The bottom line here is: don’t hold your breath while waiting for lower cost TV, radio and Internet game packages to be offered by companies competing with MLB.  But do keep your eye on what’s happening in Judge Shira Sceindlin’s court room at the Southern District of New York next month.

News Bites for February 2, 2015

To celebrate the end of the American football season with the playing of some championship game or other last night, today’s News Bites will focus heavily on when we can expect to see live Major League baseball games on our TV and radio boxes soon!

Radio, TV, web have Pirates’ spring covered. The Pirates’ Grapefruit League opener is on March 3 against Toronto will air on KDKA-FM, the first of 16 over-the-air radio broadcasts, with the remainder of the games casting on

2015 Yankees spring training schedule. Not a story but an actual schedule, showing that 15 Yankees spring games will air on their YES Network, beginning March 4 against the Phillies.

Washington Nationals Schedule >> Broadcast Information.  Seven Nats spring games will be telecast on MASN starting March 7.

6 Tigers spring training games will be on TV. The Tigers typically air few of their spring games on TV, and this year will be no exception, as Tigers loyalists will have to wait until March 22 to see their heroes take on the Braves.  At least fans can hear 22 games on radio split between 97.1 The Ticket and 1270AM.

BREWERS ANNOUNCE 2015 SPRING TRAINING BROADCAST SCHEDULE.  The Brewers will air eleven spring games on Fox Sports Wisconsin and sixteen on WTMJ-AM 620, with most of the rest casting on

Jaime Jarrin & Jorge Jarrin new Dodgers Spanish radio team.  The second most amazing thing in this story is that Jaime Jarrin is entering his 57th season as the Dodgers’ Spanish-language radio announcer.  The most amazing thing is that he is still not the longest-tenured broadcaster currently working for the team.

Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews’ new contract ties him to team through 50th season.  And speaking of broadcasting’s Half Century Club*, Denny Matthews will be joining it in the last year of his four-year extended deal with the Royals, which was announced at the team’s FanFest on Saturday night.


* – Not an actual club.


As a follow-up to coming out of hibernation with yesterday’s In Case You Missed It post, which pointed to numerous feature and news articles of various stripes that have been published on the tubes since season’s end, Part Deux will focus on some of the local media moves and renewals that have occurred since then:

Dodgers buy a stake in KLAC (570-AM), renew radio broadcast rights: This can’t possibly go as badly as the SportsNet LA boondoggle, can it?

Don Orsillo Renewed by Red Sox for 2015: One of the sharpest knives in the play by play drawer.  Do BoSox fans know how lucky they are?

Texas Rangers Move Back To 105.3 The Fan: Moved from another local FM station located 2.0 down the dial.

Josh Lewin re-signs with WOR for Mets games: The curse of Harry Caray didn’t torpedo Josh’s career after all, did it?  A good talent who can also do PxP as well.

Jamie Moyer exits Phillies’ broadcast booth: Doesn’t it always sounds suspicious when someone says they’re leaving a job to “spend more time with [his] family”?  But considering the Moyer family lives in California, this time it’s probably true.

Cubs, WGN-Ch. 9 confirm 5-year deal and It’s official: WLS-Ch. 7 to air 25 Cubs games: This is a seemingly odd backwards move towards a network affiliate, but the last years leading up to the presumed dedicated Cubs cable network must march on, fractured though the situation may be.

White Sox’ Hawk Harrelson Won’t Cut Back On 2015 Schedule: Good news for White Sox fans, I presume?

John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman officially back in Yankees’ WFAN booth for 2015: And Yankees fans as well?

McCarver returns to Cards’ TV broadcasts: And Cardinals fans?  Yes?

Orioles return to CBS RADIO’s 105.7 The Fan