Chairmen Ask MLB for Documents on Antitrust Concerns with Potential Purchase of Regional Sports Networks

Apr 11, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 11, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Robert Manfred requesting documents related to antitrust concerns regarding the league’s reported efforts to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSNs).

“Baseball is America’s national pastime, and we want to ensure that it remains vibrant, competitive, and accessible for future generations,” the Chairmen wrote.  “We also strongly support local teams, particularly given how much they do for our cities and states, our local businesses, and the families in our communities.”

“We are concerned that MLB’s potential expansion of its business to RSNs could increase the risk of anticompetitive conduct that harms American consumers and, in turn, baseball itself,” the Chairmen added.  “This potential expansion also raises the question of whether additional limits on the league’s antitrust exemption are warranted.”

According to some observers, the acquisition of RSNs by MLB would “mark a significant change to the league’s business model” and would be the “first time a major sports league has owned regional cable television networks.”

Commissioner Manfred recently described the idea of the league “having more control over local rights” as “really intriguing,” stating that “if we do the transaction, we’ll do it on the theory that we will try to accumulate more.”

The 21 RSNs that are being sold currently hold broadcast rights for 14 MLB teams, as well as 17 National Basketball Association (NBA) teams and 12 National Hockey League (NHL) teams.  Six of these RSNs do not broadcast MLB games and are instead limited to NBA games, NHL games, or both.

The Chairmen’s letter seeks four categories of documents relating to MLB’s potential acquisition and operation of RSNs.

Click here to read today’s letter to Commissioner Manfred. 

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116th Congress