A bill introduced in the US Senate by senators John McCain and Richard Blumenthal would eliminate blackouts of sporting events. Any league not complying with the bill would have their antitrust exemption revoked by the government.

The Furthering Access and Networks for Sports Act (or the FANS Act) would remove the antitrust exemptions for the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL if they did not prohibit blackouts in their contracts with providers. This is different from the FCC saying last week that they would consider eliminating sports blackouts. The FCC blackout rules only refer to NFL-based attendance blackouts, while the FANS Act would aim to also eliminate territorial blackouts and increase online streaming.

The first thing that came to my mind was the relevancy of this bill. The NFL, NHL, and MLB have all recently inked long-term contracts with their providers. Would this bill cause the leagues to modify their contracts?

Also, what about the local contracts teams have with providers? The vast majority of those contracts are locked in. Would teams be forced to rework their contracts to prohibit blackouts?

This bill seems like a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. We're still very early in the process of making the bill a law, and there are still a lot of questions I have about the specifics of the bill. You can read more of the highlights of the bill here, and I'm immediately drawn to the line "the bill would require that a league make a game available, for a fee or otherwise, over the Internet when a game is not available via television through broadcasters or pay-TV". So, would you pay another $50 per year for MLB.tv Super Premium with no blackouts at all? That seems like the most obvious solution for the leagues, and at the end of the day, consumers would be the ones losing out.

[Broadcasting and Cable]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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