When the lords of baseball take to a Baltimore boardroom today to vote on a new commissioner, the least-heralded candidate will carry into the election a most unbecoming title: King of the Blackouts. Much of Tim Brosnan’s candidacy, in fact, rests on his turning baseball into a $9 billion-a-year monolith as executive VP of business on the back of fat television contracts that leave fans all over the country unable to watch the very sport he’s in charge of selling to the public.
The fact that baseball owners revere this – that a sport hemorrhaging young fans actively chooses to black out local television games across the country in order to protect the supposed sanctity of the local TV deals that go into the billions – speaks to a certain tone-deafness. Consider the hilarity of the rogue candidate for commissioner, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, selling himself as the person who will spread the game best. The impetus behind Werner’s candidacy is the Red Sox want to tilt the revenue sharing of their huge TV deal even more in their favor….
Surely, of course, baseball could find a way to package all of its games to all of its fans in the sort of fashion that eventually brings back whatever business it might lose in the short-term. The league’s gravy train chugs along too well for MLB to actively derail it.
So it’s going to take some fans and a judge who believes the current rules are anticompetitive and that “clubs in each League have entered an express agreement to limit competition between the clubs – and their broadcaster affiliates – based on geographic territories. There is also evidence of a negative impact on the output, price, and perhaps even quality of sports programming.”
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