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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 20 November 2008 15:38

Blackout BluesBaseball fans, prepare for more frustration.

MLB owners, yet again, tabled restructuring the local and regional television territories for the league at today's quarterly owners meetings in New York, and in doing so, leaves an arcane and convoluted system in place just before the MLB Network launches on January 1.

The commissioner’s office has proposed an adjustment that will involve clubs losing a territory or market if they do not broadcast within it. Currently, markets such as Las Vegas sees six clubs claiming the television territory, including the A’s, Giants, Padres, Angels, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks.

The issue will not be broached again until the next quarterly meetings by the owners in January.

Unless the league makes a provision, the ranks of those that will be faced with the “blackout blues” will grow exponentially as the new television network for the league reaches 50 million homes next season. MLB Network plans on broadcasting 26 games each season.

MLB should have been more proactive before the economy began its slide.

In waiting on addressing the issue, the club owners are surely pushing to retain television market space as the possibility of local revenue decline looms on the horizon of the 2009 season based on an ever-gloomy economic forecast.

The blackout policy, one of continued consumer frustration since MLB Extra Innings was hatched, has been pushed back year after year, despite a chorus of angry phone calls, letters, and emails to the league asking how, for example, the Seattle Mariners consider all of Montana their “local” broadcast territory.

Now, the chorus will surely raise to an ear-splitting cacophony of confusing calls and aggravated viewers. The old adage, you can pay me now, or pay me later, seems to ring true for the moment based on the owners’ in-action on the blackout issue.

If the owners, yet again, table the issue in January, then the odds will continue to dwindle for a fair and equitable system that allows as many baseball fans as possible to enjoy MLB's product. Limiting your product to the masses is a backward way of thinking.


Maury Brown

Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer.

Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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