Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
sports leagues, websites

mlb, nhl, ny rangers

NHL Sued For Trying To Take Over Team's Website

from the fight!-fight!-fight! dept

A few years back, Major League Baseball demanded that all MLB baseball teams hand over their websites to the league as part of their effort to create MLB Advanced Media, a division devoted to managing the online presence of Major League Baseball. While MLB may go way overboard in claiming control over certain content, its online efforts have been quite a success. There was a rumored (and later scrapped) IPO plan -- but the company is apparently still doing amazingly well, with talk of it being valued somewhere around $5 billion. Already, MLBAM has tried to expand its coverage by running websites for other sports and even musicians.

All of that success apparently caught the attention of the National Hockey League, who had apparently let teams run their own damn sites for a while. However, it recently decided to bring them all in house -- but teams aren't thrilled with the idea. In fact, the NY Rangers are now suing the NHL for antitrust violations in trying to take over their site. The Rangers claim that the site is an important part of their team's marketing efforts and it acts as a competitive differentiator. They're also not happy that they've spent all this time building up traffic only to turn it over to the NHL. There are a few important differences with the NHL's plan compared to the MLB's. First, MLB took over all team sites years ago, before web sites were so important. These days, most teams recognize how valuable those sites are and have already built up a ton of traffic. Much more importantly, Major League Baseball has a special antitrust exemption that no other sports have. So, even if a baseball team had wanted to charge MLB with antitrust violations, it would have been difficult given the exemption. Since the NHL doesn't have that exemption, it's going to have to put up a fight to get the Rangers to hand over their website.

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  • identicon
    Spike, 1 Oct 2007 @ 10:50am

    All I know....

    ... is that I was much happier using the Baltimore Orioles website before MLB go a hold of it. Its bland and boring and totally not unique to the team. Plus, it starts making noise if you hang out on the homepage too long - you have to hit the "be quiet I'm trying to surf" link to get it to shut up.

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  • identicon
    Robert Cannon, 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:53am

    Another Comparison

    There is another difference between MLB and NHL. MLB streams all of its games live. You can buy a subscription and view any out of market game over the Net. Word is that this is a well used service.
    NHL which is STRUGGLING for viewership makes it harder and harder to see games. Over TV/CABLE they switched last year to Versus, and fewer and fewer games - including playoffs - are available on over-the-air broadcast TV. Now you would think this third (no fourth, no fifth) place professional sports league would try to make it easy for you to see their games - but you cannot view NHL games over the Net (although ironically you can view minor league games at $6 per game - when tickets to minor league games cost $10). Seems like MLB has had much more clue factor and NHL is way behind.

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  • identicon
    Wolfger, 1 Oct 2007 @ 12:21pm

    it's not an exemption

    It's a precedent, which is different. Courts are not bound by precedent, although they usually do adhere to them. Precedent is *not* law, and baseball does not "by law" have any exemption. It merely has precedent that the courts are reluctant to overturn. I'm presuming this reluctance stems from a desire to pretend our judicial system is perfect and doesn't make mistakes. That's a laugh. :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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