In a pair of consolidated cases alleging that it is anticompetitive for Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League to divide the market for games into various territories exclusive to the local teams, while allowing the broadcast of out-of-market games only as part of all-or-nothing packages like MLB Extra Innings or NHL Center Ice (see our prior posts here and here), the MLB and NHL moved (see here [MLB] and here [NHL]), in papers filed online last night, for summary judgment. MLB’s motion argues:
[T]here is no factual dispute that MLB clubs are interdependent members of a highly integrated, professional sports league that, among other things, share revenues generated by various club and league licenses. It also is undisputed that MLB’s video rights structure is likewise built on cooperation — an overarching framework of royalty-free cross-licenses and mutual agreements among all clubs. Yet the premise of Plaintiff’s case is that the interdependent MLB clubs (which cannot individually produce or exhibit a single MLB game, let alone an entire season) should “compete for fans” everywhere — home towns and home teams be damned. The antitrust laws do not permit this evisceration of MLB’s territorial league structure — not in general, nor under 92 years of Supreme Court precedent confirming that MLB is exempt from antitrust scrutiny. Nor is there any basis for Plaintiffs’ assumption that, if telecast territories are dismantled, the “competing” clubs would agree to continue the rest of MLB’s cooperative video rights structure, unchanged. For example, there is no basis to conclude that the Kansas City Royals would continue to agree to allow the New York Yankees to bring cameras into the Royals’ ballpark if the Yankees could transmit that game telecast in direct competition with the Royals’ telecast — in Kansas City and everywhere else.