January 19, 2016

On the day trial was set to begin in a class action challenging Major League Baseball’s broadcast practices, the parties submitted a proposed settlement agreement to Judge Shira Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Under the agreement, MLB will offer an unbundled MLB.TV Internet package for the next five years, allowing for the purchase of single-team packages for $84.99 next season. “This will be the least expensive full-season package offering among all major professional sports leagues in the United States,” said Jeffrey Dubner of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which is representing the class. It represents a 23% reduction from the cheapest version of MLB.TV previously available and a 35% reduction from the most commonly purchased version.

“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 & Diver, the Philadelphia firm that is also serving as class counsel.

The agreement also requires the MLB.TV league-wide package cost to fall to $109.99. In addition to the single-team package offering and lower prices, the agreement provides new options to consumers. It requires MLB to implement by the All-Star Break, a “Follow Your Team” variant of MLB.TV, which—for the first time in any major professional sports league—will allow consumers to watch a chosen away team’s telecast even when that club is playing an “in-market” team. This new product, which will cost only $10 more than the MLB.TV package, will enable authenticated subscribers—individuals who are pay television subscribers of the Regional Sports Network (RSN) that carries the in-market club—to watch what, up until now, would have been “blacked out” telecasts.

MLB has further agreed that it will endeavor to provide live local team broadcasts over the Internet (so called “In-Market Streaming”) for authenticated subscribers to the 25 RSNs carrying MLB games owned by DIRECTV, Comcast and 21st Century Fox by the start of the 2017 season. If In-Market Streaming is not in place for each and every one of these clubs by the 2017 season, MLB will be prohibited from increasing any of its MLB.TV package prices.

“We believe this settlement brings significant change to the sports broadcasting landscape,” Mr. Diver said. “It is a big win for baseball fans.”

The agreement follows the June 2015 settlement in Laumann v. National Hockey League. That settlement required the NHL to offer consumers individual team packages of live out of market telecasts – the first time such a product was offered by any major league sport in the United States.

Cohen Milstein’s team included J. Douglas Richards, Richard Koffman and Jeffrey Dubner. The class is also represented by Langer Grogan & Diver; Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C.; Boni & Zack, LLC; Motley Rice, LLC; and Pomerantz, LLC.

The case is Garber, et al. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, et al., 12-cv-3704 (SAS), in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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