Media Coverage of MLB.tv Blackouts

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

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.

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