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Friday, January 20, 2012

The Biz of Baseball: As 2012 MLB Season Approaches, Blackout Policy Likely to Remain

Adds Maury…“Pass the popcorn. The static’s on (again)”

File this one in the “broken record” department: prepare for yet another season of MLB’s blackout policy remaining in place.

The reason for the broken record? This story has been written repeatedly for years. A source at MLB said that for all practical purposes, the matter will likely not be addressed for the upcoming season.

For the uninitiated, the question is, “Why should I be concerned?” That depends on whether you are, or planning to, purchase MLB Extra Innings or subscribe to MLB.TV.

In a nutshell, there are two ways you can be hit with the “blackout blues”. National broadcast partners FOX and ESPN have exclusivity agreements in which no matter where you live, games are blacked out on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV.

...And about the national blackout policy, any chance that happens soon? In speaking with sources close to the matter, when asked if the possibility it won’t be considered until contracts are renewed with ESPN and FOX, the reply was, “Probably.”

Repoz Posted: January 20, 2012 at 07:11 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, media, television

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Leroy Kincaid Posted: January 20, 2012 at 08:20 AM (#4040978)
I'm taking a break from mlb.tv this season anyway. Just going with the radio package. Hope they still offer it.
   2. Elvis Posted: January 20, 2012 at 09:07 AM (#4040987)
I can live with the ESPN/FOX blackouts. I don't agree but at least I understand the logic.

But the individual team blackouts are insane. I live 334 miles away from Washington DC and I can't get Nationals games. And it's not like I can get MASN on my cable network.

Now, I know full well that others have it much worse. Is it Las Vegas that has six teams blacked out?
   3. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 20, 2012 at 09:11 AM (#4040989)
Elvis

Brewer fans in Iowa cannot get games for the Brewers, White Sox, Cubs and I believe at least two other teams.

And yes, I am pretty sure Las Vegas is another black hole of baseball game broadcasts
   4. Shibal Posted: January 20, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4041003)
I use an out of town proxy that works well when I want to see a local game. The quality isn't as good but still decent. The proxy cost is about $6 but I need it for other stuff anyway.
   5. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: January 20, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4041010)
Brewer fans in Iowa cannot get games for the Brewers, White Sox, Cubs and I believe at least two other teams.


Twins, Cards, and Royals as well.

Link

Looks like Naples and Ft Meyers Florida is the place to be.
   6. Lassus Posted: January 20, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4041016)
If the libertarians and conservatives here think the U.S. government is bloated and unworkable, MLBAM makes them look like an Amish community of 30.
   7. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: January 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM (#4041042)
If the libertarians and conservatives here think the U.S. government is bloated and unworkable, MLBAM makes them look like an Amish community of 30.


I told you not to give Selig a Predator.
   8. base ball chick Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4041055)
i don't understand how, FINANCIALLY, that blacking out "home" games in area where people obviously aren't gonna go downtown to watch and where the local cable doesn't actually CARRY the game - how this is GOOD for building/retaining fan base.

so next year when the astros will have a contract with comcast, all the people in the rest of texas who don't, won't be able to watch the astros, if they even wanted to in the first place. AND that is even assuming that out of houston, that the rockets/astros channel will even BE in standard cable packages as FSSW is.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:09 AM (#4041056)
I use an out of town proxy that works well when I want to see a local game. The quality isn't as good but still decent. The proxy cost is about $6 but I need it for other stuff anyway.


I did not know that. The local blackout of Royals games on MLB.tv is the only thing keeping me from dropping cable entirely.


i don't understand how, FINANCIALLY, that blacking out "home" games in area where people obviously aren't gonna go downtown to watch and where the local cable doesn't actually CARRY the game - how this is GOOD for building/retaining fan base.


I think its the same reason they don't give away free seats for unsold tickets. If you give it away for free sometimes, people aren't going to pay for it the rest of the time.
   10. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:36 AM (#4041086)
i don't understand how, FINANCIALLY, that blacking out "home" games in area where people obviously aren't gonna go downtown to watch and where the local cable doesn't actually CARRY the game - how this is GOOD for building/retaining fan base.


Well, it's not. But it does give some leverage for the rights holder against the local cable company. For instance, my understanding is that MASN has been at war with the cable companies in NC, trying to get 'first tier' or whatever status on those cable systems. MASN even set up a shell website where supposed legions of O's/Nats fans in NC clamor to get their teams' games carried down there.

Seems to me that best -- well, not best, but most obvious -- solution is to slap the fans with a blackout-bypass fee that would be added to the base Extra Innings/mlb.tv subscription.
   11. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4041104)
Isn't part of their logic that if they drop the blackout rules, Fox Sports (and other regional sports networks) will be less likely to hand out those giant TV contracts that are all the rage these days? (They'll still get contracts, but with less money, which is bad. Instead of more money, which is good.) Surely, that money is far more important than the fans' desire to watch their home team.

Edit: Ehh, this has all basically been said. Move along. Nothing to see here.
   12. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4041113)
I've always been under the impression that this is all the doing of rights holders (regionals), though MLB clearly is an enabler.
   13. Karl from NY Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4041163)
Isn't part of their logic that if they drop the blackout rules, Fox Sports (and other regional sports networks) will be less likely to hand out those giant TV contracts that are all the rage these days?

Not just part, that's pretty much the entirety of the logic. I can entirely understand MLB or the teams giving local exclusivity to the regional sports networks for higher prices. But the problematic situation is when the MLB.TV blackout applies but the RSN isn't even available for a particular customer or area, like the Brewers in Iowa. MLB and the teams are flat-out costing themselves viewership and revenue. Nobody benefits when a game isn't available at all. MLB either can't identify those situations technologically, or just can't be arsed to care.
   14. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM (#4041187)
The Cardinals aren't blacked out in Kansas City, but they are in Sioux City, IA, 250 miles further away from St. Louis.
   15. TerpNats Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM (#4041191)
so next year when the astros will have a contract with comcast, all the people in the rest of texas who don't, won't be able to watch the astros, if they even wanted to in the first place.
Some would argue the Astros are making this moot.

Seriously, my condolences to the good people of Iowa and Las Vegas. At least thanks to the relatively flat terrain, Iowans can hear many major league games on radio at night, at least for those teams who still have 50,000-watt AM flagships such as WPHT in Philadelphia, WLW in Cincinnati, KMOX in St. Louis and WGN and the White Sox flagship (is it 670 or 1000?) in Chicago. (And many MLB teams still have radio network affiliates in Iowa -- the two Chicago teams, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minnesota and even Milwaukee in NE Iowa.)
   16. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4041213)
You know there's a certain website in Spain that streams almost every live sporting event you could think of. Not that I would ever use such a thing, I'm still mad at the Spaniards for the Inquisition.
   17. OsunaSakata Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4041214)
I can entirely understand MLB or the teams giving local exclusivity to the regional sports networks for higher prices. But the problematic situation is when the MLB.TV blackout applies but the RSN isn't even available for a particular customer or area, like the Brewers in Iowa. MLB and the teams are flat-out costing themselves viewership and revenue. Nobody benefits when a game isn't available at all. MLB either can't identify those situations technologically, or just can't be arsed to care.


See #10 above. It's leverage for disgruntled fans to urge their local cable companies to carry the RSN. But is this a problem for DirectTV subscribers also? I thought they carried all the RSNs.
   18. OsunaSakata Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:21 PM (#4041216)
Not that I would ever use such a thing, I'm still mad at the Spaniards for the Inquisition.


I didn't expect that.
   19. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4041225)
Not just part, that's pretty much the entirety of the logic. I can entirely understand MLB or the teams giving local exclusivity to the regional sports networks for higher prices. But the problematic situation is when the MLB.TV blackout applies but the RSN isn't even available for a particular customer or area, like the Brewers in Iowa. MLB and the teams are flat-out costing themselves viewership and revenue. Nobody benefits when a game isn't available at all. MLB either can't identify those situations technologically, or just can't be arsed to care.


You're not looking at this with an RSN point of view. They all want increased carriage, so they can get more subscriber fees and charge bigger advertising rates. And if they can set up the situation where a die-hard fan is without their precious team because of the obfuscation of the cable provider (allowing them to run commercials that say, "Do you want the Royals? Call your local cable company and demand FOX Sports Midwest!"), all the better. Customer demand is how the RSNs get carriage, disproportionately.

In other words, the desire of the fanbase to see a blacked-out game is a bargaining chip, a leverage position, a positive. Not a negative.
   20. Downtown Bookie Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:28 PM (#4041228)
I didn't expect that.


Nobody expects that.

DB
   21. Bourbon Samurai Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4041231)
I will probably return to mlb tv next year. The quality has really gone up since when I had a subscription.
   22. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4041268)
But is this a problem for DirectTV subscribers also? I thought they carried all the RSNs.

They carry the RSNs, but the games are theoretically blacked out everywhere except the local viewing area. If they get blacked out for you, you have to go through an appeals process to get that resolved. It's an ugly process, and I have no idea if (for example) people in Iowa can successfully petition to get Cubs/Sox games on CSNC.

The proxy thing works, but it's a bit cumbersome. And I haven't worked out a way to use it with my Roku; I don't watch a lot on my actual laptop. (I'm guessing I could use a computer as a proxy relay, but I just haven't bothered to tinker with it yet.)
   23. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:14 PM (#4041270)
I didn't expect that.

Nobody expects that.

I love you guys.
   24. OsunaSakata Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:25 PM (#4041303)
But is this a problem for DirectTV subscribers also? I thought they carried all the RSNs.

They carry the RSNs, but the games are theoretically blacked out everywhere except the local viewing area. If they get blacked out for you, you have to go through an appeals process to get that resolved. It's an ugly process, and I have no idea if (for example) people in Iowa can successfully petition to get Cubs/Sox games on CSNC.


Really? A subscriber has to petition DirectTV to show something they already carry? It's not a case of bugging the local cable company to carry an RSN. DirectTV already carries the RSN, so why should it be blacked out?
   25. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4041311)
I've had ExtraInnings since 2002, and it seems as if there were fewer games last year in direct competition with the Fox Saturday GOTW than there used to be, which meant that virtually none of the games were unavailable. The only complaint I have is that Fios doesn't give you as many choices of home or road telecasts as I used to get with DirectTV.
   26. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4041325)
In other words, the desire of the fanbase to see a blacked-out game is a bargaining chip, a leverage position, a positive. Not a negative.

Yeah, in theory the local cable company in Iowa might end up contracting with Comcast Sports Net to carry the Cubs if enough people want it. But in theory the local cable company in Seattle could want to carry the Cubs, too. The blackout concept makes some sense, but they rules are too restrictive, bordering on idiotic.
   27. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4041332)
Really? A subscriber has to petition DirectTV to show something they already carry? It's not a case of bugging the local cable company to carry an RSN. DirectTV already carries the RSN, so why should it be blacked out?

If you're not in a zip code that is in DirecTV's database of the DMA (Designated Market Area) of the particular RSN, then the games will be blacked out. If, for some reason, your zip code isn't in their database, then you have to appeal that with DirecTV.

I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's something DirecTV has in place as part of their agreement with MLB. That's why the "sports" package that DirecTV sells to give you all of the RSNs is silly. About the only actual sporting events (as opposed to studio shows or fishing or some crap like that) that don't seem to get blacked out are college sports (though more of those have moved to college networks) and minor sports like Arena Football.

This has also come up with Dish and AT&T U-Verse, and probably others too. (It's less common on U-Verse because U-Verse is mostly only in metro areas with local RSNs anyway. But it happens.)
   28. Charlie O Posted: January 20, 2012 at 04:59 PM (#4041485)
At least thanks to the relatively flat terrain, Iowans can hear many major league games on radio...

In Las Vegas one can visit the sports & race book in one of the casinos and watch all of the games for free.

   29. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: January 21, 2012 at 12:21 AM (#4041741)
I only get 2 NFL games a week and there is no internet option. So I'm not pissed yet. Although the NFL is dumping the exclusive Direct TV deal next season, so baseball will fall behind the NFL for the first time in over a decade. MLB better figure this out very soon.
   30. base ball chick Posted: January 21, 2012 at 12:57 AM (#4041749)
Greg Pope Posted: January 20, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4041325)

In other words, the desire of the fanbase to see a blacked-out game is a bargaining chip, a leverage position, a positive. Not a negative.

Yeah, in theory the local cable company in Iowa might end up contracting with Comcast Sports Net to carry the Cubs if enough people want it. But in theory the local cable company in Seattle could want to carry the Cubs, too. The blackout concept makes some sense, but they rules are too restrictive, bordering on idiotic.


- it is only a bargaining chip somewhere there is actually a fan base
but time-warner, charter are gonna carry a comcast channel? REaLLY?

the rules are indeed idiotic. if i move to austin, i couldn't watch the astros even if i wanted to after this year - no comcast. goodbye any hope of fanbase. stupid

and yeah, i can see paying to watch a game on mlb.tv in the blackout area where THERE IS NO RSN!!!

but just decreasing the fanbase is silly

- as for the astros radio, milo is senile and his 2 sidekicks stink, and they sure as heck ain't increasing no fanbase
   31. Moe Greene Posted: January 21, 2012 at 01:40 AM (#4041757)
I lived in Las Vegas for 4 years. Until I moved to Vegas, I had subscribed to mlb.tv every year of its existence.

Once I saw that I was blacked out from 6 teams, I dropped mlb.tv and have since watched free streams.

MLB's dumbass blackout policy pushed me to go from giving them $x per year to $0. Good work, guys.
   32. Lassus Posted: January 21, 2012 at 08:35 AM (#4041792)
Although the NFL is dumping the exclusive Direct TV deal next season, so baseball will fall behind the NFL for the first time in over a decade. MLB better figure this out very soon.

I hate to be stupid, but..... huh?
   33. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 21, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4041800)
I only get 2 NFL games a week and there is no internet option.

I'm probably misinterpreting that sentence, but since the broadcast networks alone carry 4 or 5 games every Sunday, how can you be getting only 2 games a week?

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