U.S. Representative Pat Ryan, a Democrat from New York’s 18th District, is bothered by the increasing number of sports blackouts, and is taking action to end what he called a “double whammy ripping off sports fans across the country.”
Ryan said on Tuesday that he had written to the U.S. Comptroller General and the commissioners of the four major sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL — demanding an investigation into sports blackouts. He also said he asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the leagues were abusing their antitrust exemptions to sell these exclusive games.
“Yesterday was the sports equinox, the one day of the year that all four major professional sports leagues play at once,” Ryan said in a statement. “Yet New Yorkers, who already pay thousands of dollars a year to watch their favorite teams, stared at black screens because billionaire owners care more about profit than their fans. It’s total BS.”
Ryan was referring to Monday’s rare occurrence of simultaneous games being played by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, which has only happened 30 times in history. He called out the various leagues, which have sold exclusive broadcasting rights to the games, as well as streaming services like Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, and ESPN+.
The carving out of exclusive games across different services has only grown more complex as streaming players take more of an interest in live sports as a draw. Apple TV+ has the rights to MLB games and MLS, Amazon carries the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, ESPN+ carries a myriad of NHL games, Peacock offers Premier League Soccer, college football and Sunday Night Football, and Max broadcasts NBA and NHL games. The fragmentation of where these games are broadcast means a complicated patchwork of serves are required to catch everything.
Because of the restrictions, sports fans will end up with blackout screens if they don’t access to the right service for their favorite teams. He noted that Yankees and Mets fans in New York were blacked out from 25 games because the MLB had sold the exclusive rights to the games to Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Peacock.
“Whether you’re a senior in Kingston or a parent in Newburgh, you shouldn’t have to buy 6 streaming services just to find out the game is blacked out,” Ryan, who is a Knicks and Knicks fans, said. “The leagues make more than enough money – let’s put power back where it belongs: with the fans.”