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Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesAct of September 30, 1961
Long titleAn Act to amend the antitrust laws to authorize leagues of professional football, baseball, basketball, and hockey teams to enter into certain television contracts, and for other purposes.
Acronyms (colloquial)SBA
Enacted bythe 87th United States Congress
Public lawPub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 87–331
Statutes at Large75 Stat. 732
Acts amendedSherman Antitrust Act
Titles amended15
U.S.C. sections created15 U.S.C. §§ 12911295
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 9096 by Emanuel Celler D‑NY on September 7, 1961
  • Committee consideration by Judiciary
  • Passed the House on September 18, 1961 
  • Passed the Senate on September 21, 1961 
  • Signed into law by President Kennedy on September 30, 1961

The Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 affects Title 15 of the United States Code, Chapter 32 "Telecasting of Professional Sports Contest" (§§ 1291-1295)[1]

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The Sports Broadcasting Act was passed in response to a court[specify] decision which ruled that the National Football League's method of negotiating television broadcasting rights violated antitrust laws.[2][3] The court ruled that the "pooling" of rights by all the teams to conclude an exclusive contract between the league and CBS was illegal.

The Act overrules that decision, and permits certain joint broadcasting agreements among the major professional sports. It recognizes the fact that the various franchises in a sports league, while competitors in the sporting sense, are not as much business competitors as they are interdependent partners, whose success as enterprises is intertwined, as a certain level of competitive balance between them must exist for any of them to remain viable enterprises. Therefore, it permits the sale of a television "package" to a network or networks in which the league members share equally, a procedure which is common today. Of the four major North American professional team sports, the Act is most pertinent to the NFL, as all of its regular-season and playoff games are broadcast via the rights assigned to the networks via national broadcast rights packages, as opposed to local team broadcast rights as found in the other leagues.

The law has been interpreted to include the so-called "blackout rules" which protect a home team from competing games broadcast into its home territory on a day when it is playing at home, and from being required to broadcast games within its home market area that have not sold out, though none of the leagues implement such rules any longer.[citation needed]

A 1966 amendment withdrew antitrust immunity for any pro football telecast if a high school or college football game is being played within 75 miles (120 km) of the broadcasting station. This provision, intended to protect high school and college football attendance, has the effect of barring national broadcasts of NFL games on those days, since virtually all of the country is within 75 miles of at least one high school game on every Friday night in September and October.


This portion of the act has since been partially circumvented; the NFL extended its season in 1978 to allow a few weeks of Friday night or Saturday games if the league so wished. Late-season Saturday games have been common since then, but Friday night games are still extremely rare; the league has played only eight Friday games since 1978, mostly because of the NFL's restrictions during Christmas. In 2005, a Miami Dolphins-Kansas City Chiefs matchup, scheduled for Sunday, October 23 in Miami, was moved up to 7pm Friday night due to Hurricane Wilma. The game was televised only within 75 miles of Miami and Kansas City (outside of the home teams' markets, only affiliates in West Palm Beach, St. Joseph and Topeka were allowed to televise it).[4][5][6]

College football

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s broadcast packages are not subject to the antitrust exemption and it suffered for it, when the Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA's restrictive television policies were a violation of antitrust law in the 1980s when the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma sued the NCAA over television restrictions (limit of six television appearances over two years) established in 1952. However, after their court victory, neither Georgia nor Oklahoma made serious efforts to market their own television packages, but instead followed the lead of their conferences, the Southeastern Conference and the Big 8 Conference respectively.

The College Football Association, an alliance of 64 schools from some of the major conferences and selected independents, sold their own television package in 1984, first to ABC, and later to CBS. The Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences, not CFA affiliates, sold their own separate package, first to CBS in 1984, and to ABC in 1987.

By 1991, the landscape changed. ABC had the CFA, Big Ten, and Pac-10 packages, and NBC the Notre Dame home package. It was once again relegated to limited appearances.

The CFA collapsed, and in 1995, the Southeastern Conference signed a national deal with CBS. They are the only major conference guaranteed a national "game of the week" because ESPN's games may come from any of the conferences they offer. CBS' contract with the SEC expires after the 2023 season, and the Big Ten will assume the SEC's game of the week slot. [7]


  1. ^ "15 U.S. Code Chapter 32 - TELECASTING OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS CONTESTS | LII / Legal Information Institute". 2012-01-03. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  2. ^ United States of America v. National Football League, 196 F. Supp. 445 (E.D. Pa. 1961) ("I am therefore obliged to construe the Final Judgment as prohibiting the execution and performance of the contract dated April 24, 1961, between the National Football League and the Columbia Broadcasting System.").
  3. ^ Shea, Stuart (7 May 2015). Calling the Game: Baseball Broadcasting from 1920 to the Present. SABR, Inc. p. 357. ISBN 9781933599410.
  4. ^ "To avoid Wilma, NFL moves Chiefs-Dolphins game to Friday". USA Today. October 21, 2005. Archived from the original on October 23, 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  5. ^ "Wilma causes Chiefs-Dolphins to reschedule for Friday". ESPN. 20 October 2005. Archived from the original on December 28, 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  6. ^ Parson, Jeffrey (October 21, 2005). "Fans can't see Chiefs on TV". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved October 20, 2019 – via NewsBank.
  7. ^ [1] Archived January 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
This page was last edited on 25 August 2023, at 02:53
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