UPDATE 1-Sports fans can pursue US antitrust case over programs

Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:18pm EST
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* Subscribers claimed to overpay for TV, Internet packages

* Judge says subscribers plausibly alleged harm

* MLB, NHL, Comcast, DirecTV, several teams were sued

By Jonathan Stempel and Liana B. Baker

NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday allowed sports fans to pursue a lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and various networks of antitrust violations in how they package games for broadcast on television or the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said the subscribers could pursue claims that the packaging has reduced competition, raised prices, and kept them from watching their favorite teams located outside their home markets.

"Plaintiffs in this case - the consumers - have plausibly alleged that they are the direct victims of this harm," she wrote.

The defendants include Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, several teams in both sports, various regional sports networks, Comcast Corp, DirecTV and Madison Square Garden Co.

Calls to lawyers for the defendants and the subscribers were not immediately returned.   Continued...