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Judge's decision could give out-of-market hockey fans better TV viewing options

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Want to buy a TV or online streaming package just for Flyers games? A judge might decide this week whether or not that could be a possibility.

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If you're an out-of-market sports fan, like so many of us are, you know the dilemma well.

You want to watch the Flyers (or the Eagles or the Phillies or any other team), but unless the game is on national television, you're kind of stuck. You can either fork over your $150 or $200 to the NHL for every game in a season via NHL Center Ice or NHL GameCenter Live, or you don't watch the games. You can't pay for just a single game, nor can you buy a package that just gets you Flyers games.

It's kind of unfair. Maybe you don't have interest or anywhere near the need to watch "up to 40 out of market games a week!" Maybe you just want to watch three games a week. But you pay for all of them, because it's the only choice you have.

That might be changing soon. Via the AP:

Fans have long asked for tailored options to view live games on TV and other devices, saying league-wide packages such as Major League Baseball's Extra Innings, the National Football League's Sunday Ticket and the National Hockey League's Center Ice offer more games than they want or can possibly watch.

...

A three-day trial that ended this past week in a packed Manhattan courtroom leaves a judge to decide whether a lawsuit brought by several fans against MLB and the NHL can be considered a class-action. The outcome of the litigation could set a precedent for broadcast rights for other sports as well, including football and basketball.

This is the way television is going. More options on more devices, and lots more flexibility. Not necessarily tied down to a cable subscription any time you want to watch your favorite channel or program online. Te unbundling of channels only previously available in big groups. We've seen these sorts of trends recently with new products like SlingTV, and now you don't even need a cable subscription to watch HBO.

That's kind of a different conversation, since you'd still need a cable subscription to watch games on NBC Sports or NHL Network -- and the Flyers always play a lot of those nationally-televised games. But it's all part of the same larger "cord-cutting" trend.

This is the kind of thing that the NHL and other leagues will fight tooth and nail (even though in the long run it probably could make them more money since it will be a more attractive option for more people), but we can all agree that it'd be a good move for fans. Let's hope the judge rules in favor of the fans here ... and next, let's tackle those arcane blackout restrictions.