A judge grants class action status to lawsuit against MLB and the NHL over blackouts

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There is still a long way to go here — and this case has been marinating for over two years now — but this is a big hurdle cleared:

U.S. District Court judge Shira Scheindlin yesterday granted plaintiffs’ motion to certify class action status in an antitrust lawsuit against MLB and the NHL, a case that threatens to demolish the decades-old blackout system in sports media.

You can reade the decision here.

The underlying lawsuit is pretty straightforward: Major League Baseball has illegally used its monopoly power to restrict the market for televised baseball gamed via its blackout system and its failure to make available a service that allows fans out of a team’s market to buy just one team’s games as opposed to an entire service like Extra Innings or MLB.tv.

At issue in class certification was whether every consumer affected by blackouts is affected in the same way or if, alternatively, thousands of separate trials would have to be had for consumers from various different markets trying to access games from various different markets. This is a big win for the plaintiffs who now have the leverage of numbers and the ability to prove one case in order to prevail.

Practically speaking, this creates more pressure on MLB to find a way to end its dumb and antiquated blackout policies. Something it’s been trying to do for some time but on which it cannot seem to come to agreement with cable providers and regional sports networks.