RealNetworks launched a lawsuit yesterday against the digital-media division of Major League Baseball (MLB), accusing the organization of violating an agreement to carry baseball games in RealNetworks' streaming-multimedia formats. RealNetworks claims that the agreement requires MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) to supply content in the RealAudio and RealVideo formats, even if it chooses to also supply content in competing formats. RealNetworks says that when MLBAM recently started offering preseason baseball games in Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Windows Media Video (WMV) formats instead of RealNetworks formats, MLBAM broke the terms of its nonexclusive contract. "Regrettably, MLBAM has refused to provide its live audio and video game broadcasts on MLB.com in RealNetworks format, forcing RealNetworks to file this suit to require MLBAM to perform its obligations to the letter and spirit of our contract," a RealNetworks statement said.
An MLBAM spokesperson admitted yesterday that the organization decided to stream baseball games only in Windows Media formats this season. RealNetworks had an exclusive license for the lucrative MLB games, which are provided to online viewers for a subscription fee, but that agreement expired at the end of last season. RealNetworks says that it reached a nonexclusive agreement with MLB in January.
MLBAM has since courted many other potential partners, including AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, which balked at MLBAM's fees. So MLBAM began offering the content directly from the MLB Web site. Users can subscribe to an entire season of audio content for $14.95 or to MLB.TV streaming video for $14.95 a month or $79.95 for the season.