Trying to Make Sense of MLB Blackout Policies (Spoiler: I Don’t)By: Brendan Bilko
I headed to my office this afternoon with the notion that I was going to get some work done, but also try to catch a little bit of Yu Darvish’s start against the Twins. Of course, I forgot to take into account the fact that MLB and FOX’s relationship turns any hopeful MLB.tv streaming consumer into the third wheel.
For the purposes of speed (remember when I said I came to the office to work?), here are the short versions of the two criteria for which MLB games are blacked out (per Wikipedia):
- “A local broadcaster has priority to televise games of the team in their market over national broadcasters…MLB’s streaming Internet video service is also subject to the same blackout rules, although in the near-future, MLB is rumored to be looking into the possibility of teams and their local broadcasters cutting deals with cable/satellite providers to permit in-market streaming.” (Note the last part needed citation and a quick search did not provide me with anything even insinuating deals in process.
- “Fox has certain rights for afternoon MLB games on Saturdays, and ESPN has the same rights for night games on Sundays. Broadcasters cannot show games of in-market teams, regardless of whether the game is home or away, if the game of the local team has a certain start time.”
Regarding the first criteria, this makes little to no sense. While I can force myself to try to understand it for the purposes of the television broadcasts, I cannot for streaming.
I am a Mets fan that lives and works in Brooklyn. I pay for cable at home (which includes costs for SNY, ESPN, FOX and TBS), but can’t always be there. Sometimes I work really late hours and sometimes I work weekends. I pay the $124.99 per year for MLB.tv so I can watch the sport I love when I have five minutes to spare at my desk. Despite all the money I pay into the system, the Mets are blacked out because I’m not watching “my local broadcast.” Newsflash: I actually AM watching my local broadcast. I’m just not watching my locally paid advertising.
The second criteria makes me want to vomit — the exclusive time slot. “Park yourself in front of the TV, boys and girls! It’s time to watch Uncle Joe and “Uncle” Tim banter about what a balk isn’t for three hours!” Why can’t I park myself in front of my iPad and do that?
The solutions here for local broadcasts seem relatively simple — work out a deal where streaming viewers are watching the local advertising. If you can pinpoint my location to inform me that I’m in a blackout restricted market, certainly you can pinpoint it and blast Giuseppe Franco commercials my way. Naturally there are some more complicated markets like parts of Ohio and Maryland. Give them local ads as well based on the broadcasts they get per current televised area restrictions.
FOX broadcasts should receive similar treatment. Pinpoint where I am, give me the Yankees playing the Red Sox or whichever of the other two you want to give me based on archaic regional restrictions, and throw ads in my face. I don’t fucking care about being shown ads. I tolerate them on TV, I tolerate them on the subway, and just like I tolerate the blue screen MLB uses instead of commercials now, I will tolerate them on my computer/phone/tablet. I pay for cable, Internet access in multiple locations, MLB.tv, merchandise and tickets to around 20 games per year at different stadiums. What more do you want from me? I just want to see my team play.
MLB, ESPN, FOX, TBS, local networks and advertisers everywhere need to get their heads out of their collective asses. Blacking out these games does two things very well: limits exposure for ALL OF THEM and pisses people off. If they want to cap growth at where they’re at then they are foolish. It’s an arcane system that needs a fix, and just like the game has evolved, so to should the way league and its media affiliates broadcast it.