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MLB settles fans’ lawsuit over TV blackouts

WASHINGTON — Major League Baseball has settled a lawsuit with fans unhappy about restrictions on watching their favorite teams play on TV by agreeing to offer an unbundled Internet package, lawyers for the fans said on Tuesday.

Major League Baseball confirmed that there was a settlement in the case, which was supposed to go to trial on Tuesday, but did not detail the agreement.

At issue were accords that limit where certain games can be broadcast which consumers said resulted in anticompetitive blackouts that forced them to pay more to see matches.

Under the settlement, Major League Baseball will sell an MLB.TV Internet package for the next five years that allows fans to purchase single team packages, which will be priced at $84.99 next summer, lawyers for the plaintiffs said. A league-wide package shown on MLB.TV will cost $109.99.

“The parties have successfully reached a compromise that will lower prices, create brand new products, and increase consumer choice,” said Ned Diver, a partner at Langer, Grogan and Diver, the lead class counsel.

The case had been filed in 2012 against Major League Baseball, DirecTV, Comcast Corp. and others.

NBC Sports Regional Networks said in a statement that they were “pleased with the settlement and look forward to partnering with Major League Baseball to enable our regional sports networks’ offering of live in-market streaming of games to subscribers.”

A spokesman for AT&T, which closed its acquisition of DirecTV last year, declined comment.

Typically, regional sports networks have exclusive rights to broadcast professional baseball and hockey games in their home markets, but cannot broadcast those games elsewhere.

Sports fans, however, complained in the lawsuit that this allowed professional sports leagues to charge premium prices to watch games outside home markets — for example, if a San Francisco resident wanted to watch the New York Yankees.

The settlement followed a deal struck by the National Hockey League in June to allow fans to watch their favorite teams play outside their home markets without having to pay extra for a league-wide bundle of games.

The case at the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York is Garber et al v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al in the same court, No. 12-03074. 

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