Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and cable broadcasters are stuck fighting claims that they schemed to shield regional sports networks from competition for live game broadcasts.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan denied four separate defense motions for summary judgment in a 57-page decision on Friday, allowing two parallel class actions against MLB and the NHL to move forward.
Lawyers at Langer, Grogan & Diver launched the litigation in 2012, claiming that the NHL and MLB colluded with cable providers and regional sports networks to use regional blackouts to limit competition for coverage of live hockey and baseball games. They say the defendants violated U.S. antitrust laws by divvying up television territory according to team, and also by blocking subscribers to the league’s out-of-market and Web streaming packages from accessing local games.
Scheindlin partially granted a defense motion to dismiss in December 2012, tossing proposed class claims by customers who paid for the regional sports networks as part of their cable packages. The judge refused to toss claims filed on behalf of customers who bought access to out-of-market games via cable or the Internet, however, preserving the guts of the plaintiffs’ case antitrust case.
Langer Grogan’s Edward Diver declined to comment on Friday. The plaintiffs are also represented by counsel from Klein Kavanagh Costello; Pomerantz Haudek Block Grossman & Gross; Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz; Kohn, Swift & Graf; and Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll.
The defense lineup includes Proskauer Rose (for MLB), Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (for the NHL), Davis Polk & Wardwell (for Comcast Corporation), Alston & Bird (for DIRECTV LLC), Boies, Schiller & Flexner (for the New York Yankees and the team’s YES network) and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (for the Madison Square Garden Company and New York Rangers Hockey Club).
Yankees counsel Jonathan Schiller of Boies Schiller said his client was looking ahead to briefing its opposition to class certification, which he hoped to beat “on a variety of grounds.” Representatives for the other defendants weren’t immediately available to comment.