UPDATE 1-NHL, broadcasters settle lawsuit over TV blackouts

Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:29pm EDT
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(Adds settlement details, comments, case citation, byline)

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, June 11 (Reuters) - The National Hockey league will permit fans to watch their favorite teams play outside their home markets, without having to pay extra for a league-wide bundle of games, as part of a settlement of a class action antitrust lawsuit.

The preliminary accord made public on Thursday resolves claims that the league, several teams, Comcast Corp, DirecTV and Madison Square Garden Co, used blackouts to limit out-of-market broadcasts of games.

Fans said this forced them to buy costly bundles of games they did not care about, rather than spend less to buy games "a la carte," if they wanted to want their preferred teams.

Under the settlement, the NHL will, for the next five years, offer a "Game Center Live" Internet package enabling fans to buy single-team packages for at least 20 percent below the cost of bundled packages.

The league will also discount "early bird," renewal and full season prices by an additional 17.25 percent for the 2015-2016 season, allowing a fan who now pays $159 for a game bundle to instead buy a single-team package for about $105.

Thursday's settlement requires approval by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan.

It came after the judge on May 14 dealt fans a setback by ruling they could not pursue damages in a class action, though they could pursue antitrust claims as a group.   Continued...