Archive for April, 2008

Baby Steps

Well, it appears that MLB is prepared to do something about the blackout problem:

Major League Baseball is finally trying to white out its blackout problem – and the restrictions that prevent so many from watching games on television and over the Internet may be lifted as early as the 2009 season.

This article primarily discusses the MLB Extra Innings package blackouts for cable and satellite subscribers, but one would hope the new blackout rules would extend to MLB.tv as well. Unfortunately, ending all blackouts doesn’t appear to be on the table. The new policy would only go so far as to end the most ridiculous of blackouts for fans who live nowhere near a ballpark:

At the owners’ meetings in May, all 30 teams are expected to deliver reports outlining the territories in which they currently broadcast games or have concrete plans to in the future, according to an MLB source. Based on the information, MLB will redraw its territorial-rights map – the outdated gerrymandering that causes areas such as Las Vegas and Iowa to be blacked out from 40 percent of games on a full schedule – to better reflect the present broadcast landscape.

The catalyst behind MLB’s sudden action is president Bob DuPuy, who at last year’s meetings took a hard-line stance on the blackouts. Aware of the outrage among baseball fans and torrent of letters pouring into MLB offices over an issue with a fairly painless remedy, DuPuy told the owners they had to stake legitimate claims to their territories or risk losing them.

Some owners, another source said, were concerned about existing TV contracts and potential discord among advertisers who were promised certain territories covered. DuPuy understood the conflict and allowed them one year to work out any issues.

This is good news for, say, fans of the A’s/Dodgers/Giants/Padres/Angels/Diamondbacks in Las Vegas, who are currently blacked out from all those teams’ games. A’s and Giants fans near the Bay Area, Dodgers and Angels fans near in L.A., and all other fans relatively close to their favorite team will apparently still be left in the dark.

Still, I can’t help but think that something is a good thing, and may lead to more good things soon.

April 17, 2008 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

MLB.com Highlights All That’s Wrong with MLB.tv

From the MLB.com “news” desk:

Matt Smith is a 24-year-old A’s fan who lives in Norwich, England, and he is starting his fourth season as a member of the MLB.TV generation.

I’ll give you three guesses why they didn’t write this article about me, an A’s fan in Oakland.

There are too many reasons to subscribe, such as logging onto his computer this past week to watch the A’s split a pair with Boston in Japan.

Call me a crazy baseball fan, but I woke up at 3 am Tuesday and Wednesday mornings to watch those games in Japan. I was blacked out, of course. For games at 3 am. Being played in Japan.

When asked why he is such an avid MLB.TV fan — one of more than one million fans who have watched live games this way — Smith replied via e-mail:

Want to watch all 162 of your favorite team’s regular-season games? No problem

No problem! If you live in Norwich, England.

Want to risk a heart attack watching all of the outings by your fantasy team’s starters? Go right ahead. Don’t want to miss any of the big games and dramatic moments that make up an MLB season? Thanks to MLB.TV, you don’t have to.

“None of the above would be possible without MLB.TV and my experience as a baseball fan would be much poorer as a result.

You said it, Matt! Without MLB.tv, many of us baseball fans wouldn’t be able to do all those things you just said. In fact, we can’t, and our experiences as baseball fans are much poorer as a result. But we’re all thrilled that one of the 9 baseball fans in England is satisfied.

As usual, your fellow baseball fans, like Smith, make the best case for why it is in everyone’s interest to subscribe to MLB.TV.

If you live in England, which is aparently MLB’s target demographic.

And once again, there will be fans all over the world following their favorite club live on MLB.TV because they don’t live near the team, because they are traveling, because they are at school — more reasons all the time.

And if you do live near the team, well, you’d better get yourself out to every single game, or be sure to be at home in front of the TV (if you have have one with cable) and not at school or work or at the coffee shop or hanging out at a friend’s house who insists on watching a basketball game instead. Beyond that, move to England, and you’ll never miss a thing!

Try it out, and you are likely to share this sentiment of Matt Smith:

“I can’t imagine being without it.”

I can.

April 3, 2008 at 10:22 pm 4 comments

Media Coverage of MLB.tv Blackouts

MLB.tv blackouts have been written about and discussed on many blogs and websites, but Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan brought the issue to national attention with a series of articles in 2006. Here are some highlights:

A black(out) eye for baseball

What comes of this is a dichotomy: Baseball surely wants all of its fans to watch as many games as possible – for all of the negativity associated with the sport, it’s never been richer as a business – but seems to give more value to respecting its owners, whose pockets, remember, are lined by those fans.

When he saw MLB.com’s broadcasts were blacked out, Cho remembered that his local cable provider was giving a free preview to the Extra Innings package. He tried the A’s channel. Black screen. He tried it the next day. Same thing.

“I contacted the local cable company here,” Cho said. “They told me they have no say over what games they’re allowed to broadcast, and they just follow the rules.”

Rules that made sense a long time ago. And rules that need a rewrite, pronto.

Left in the dark

At issue are territorial rights, the policies that bequeath each team a certain geographical area to call its home market. Why they remain in place when technology allows the broadcast of all games and the ubiquity of information shatters the very idea of territories is mystifying. Baseball builds barriers where it needs none. […]

At this juncture, it’s too easy to point out the problems because there are so many. It’s incumbent upon baseball to think of resolutions rather than sit on its hindquarters while dissatisfaction mounts.

“The frustration of these rules started helping me think of a solution,” wrote Nick Zack, a blackout-affected fan in Mesa, Ariz. “If MLB is collecting the money from these games, why not make them available to those in the blackout range, but kick back the revenue to the teams that are being watched? So if I was in Yuma, always watching Padres games on MLB.TV, San Diego would collect the revenue from that game. Then baseball can allow its fans to watch the games, and the local’ teams can still keep their revenue. Or is there something I am not understanding?”

No. It just makes too much sense.

Selig’s promise

Bud Selig admitted Tuesday that he has been restricted from watching some games this season – and that he intends to change the policy that leaves some cities without as many as six baseball games each night.

“I don’t understand (blackouts) myself,” Selig said at a luncheon with the Baseball Writers Association of America. “I get blacked out from some games.”

While he did not outline a plan, Selig said he had spoken with Major League Baseball about addressing the blackout issue.

“Right now,” he said, “I don’t know what to do about it. We’ll figure it out.” […]

“I hear more about people who can’t get the game,” Selig said, “and, yes, I’ve already told our people we have to do something about it.”

It has been nearly 2 years since Passan published those articles, and absolutely nothing has changed. Time to get this back on Commissioner Selig’s front burner.

April 2, 2008 at 12:25 am Leave a comment


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