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MLB Federal Lawsuit Settlement Means More TV Choices For Fans

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A lawsuit that was going to begin in federal court today has been settled.

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Last week, I wrote about a pending federal lawsuit that could have brought sweeping changes to the way baseball is presented and consumed on television.

That lawsuit now won't be heard as Tuesday morning, a settlement was reached between the parties:

Just as a trial was to begin, Major League Baseball and its fans reached agreement Tuesday to expand the menu of online packages for televised games.

The deal came weeks after baseball's lawyers told a judge that for the first time the league was going to let fans buy single-team packages for fans who watch games online. In the past, viewers who didn't live in their favored teams' home markets had to buy access to every single televised MLB game.

Ned Diver, an attorney for fans who filed the class-action lawsuit in 2012, confirmed the preliminary settlement, though he did not immediately describe the terms. Lawyers for baseball and an MLB spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Obviously, we'll need more details on the settlement and what it means going forward, but the first result will likely be, as noted above, that you'll be able to buy an online package of only Cubs games if you live outside the Cubs' broadcast territory.

This is good news if you live outside the blackout area if you don't want to buy the entire MLB.tv package and only want to watch the Cubs. The National Hockey League has been allowing this for some time, at a price that's about 20 percent below the price for the full league package. I'd expect MLB to price its single-team option about the same. No prices nor details have yet been posted for MLB.tv for the 2016 season, though typically they come out around the end of January, so likely they'll be available in a week or so.

MLB issued a statement after the settlement was announced:

"We can confirm that a settlement of the Garber case has been reached. Because the process remains ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further at this time."

Unfortunately, none of this help you if you live in the blackout areas of Indiana, Illinois or Iowa, and I'll post the map here again (click to embiggen):

You'll still be blacked out of games in those areas unless your cable/satellite system carries CSN Chicago, and even if you get those, you're still at the mercy of local broadcast outlets in the case of the 70 over-the-air games that are on WGN-Ch. 9 and ABC-7 in Chicago. Some of those games were carried on affiliates in the 14 markets affected last year. I'm hopeful that more of those games will be carried in 2016; I'm trying to find out what coverage plans are in these markets and will post about it if I get information.

In the meantime, this is a small victory for baseball fans.