Hours before a class-action lawsuit was set to begin between Major League Baseball and its fans, a settlement was reached Tuesday that will increase viewing options and reduce prices.
In 2012, lawyers representing the fans claimed teams and some television network entities had violated antitrust laws by colluding to enforce strict regional boundaries for airing games and in doing so limited or even eliminated competition in certain areas and allowed the price to be driven artificially high.
Major League Baseball has had an antitrust exemption for more than 100 years, but in 2013 U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that was not a suitable defense in this case.
MLB will offer single-team packages for $84.99, the lawyers for the fans said, which is a 23 percent drop from the previously cheapest option available. Previously, fans were only offered the option of purchasing access to every televised MLB game.
The price of the full television package was reduced to $110 annually.
“We believe this settlement brings significant change to the sports broadcasting landscape,” said one of the plaintiff lawyers, Ned Diver, to the Associated Press. “It is a big win for baseball fans.”
Also, the settlement allows fans to watch the visiting team’s television feed when they play “in-market” teams, as long as that fan is an authorized cable subscriber to the Regional Sports Network that carries the “in-market” team’s games. That option, which would be a first across all major professional sporting leagues, will be available by July for an extra $10 and will be a breakthrough to current blackouts.
“Make no mistake, this mission is not altruistic,” baseball’s lawyers said in court documents last month. “Baseball faces fierce competition, including from other sports offerings and an increasing slate of non-sports entertainment and leisure options.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the single-team packages will be $89.99. They are listed at $84.99.