MLB's blackout map is a confusing case
of overlapping territories.
(CLICK TO SEE IN LARGER VIEW)
Two months from today, the 2009 regular season for Major League Baseball will get underway, and with it, fans will reach for their remotes (and wallets) to watch out-of-market games via MLB Extra Innings.
But, for several recent owners meetings, the topic of restructuring the television blackout policy for the league has been met with calls for tabling the matter, or as it was at last month’s meetings, pushed off the agenda entirely by more pressing matters for the owners, such as the gloomy state of the economy.
The chances of any movement on the blackout policy becomes ever more remote as the season approaches, and owners deal with a case of tunnel vision regarding economic factors. To place this in perspective, the last owners meetings had George Will talk about the economy, while the blackout policy took a back seat.
Word is that MLB hopes to have a proposal to address the arcane blackout policy formulated by opening day. With owners grasping onto every thin dime, odds seem exceptionally long that restructuring the television territories will take place by the time the first pitch arrives on the 2009 season. MLB president and COO Bob DuPuy has said that the proposal being presented would have a club lose a portion of their television territory, if they have not broadcast within it for over a year.
(Select the map provided to see the MLB blackout territories in larger view)
The potential problem with this model deals with what are called “haircut provisions” – advertising agreements that are tied to audience size. So, in principle, even though a club may not be broadcasting in an area of their granted television territory, the total audience size is still considered within it. Removing the areas not being broadcasted to would, ostensibly, make the audience size smaller, thus impacting ad deals.
The sad reality for those living outside of the markets where their favorite team broadcasts is that odds are very good that this year – like the year before, and the year before that – will have the same MLB blackout policy that has aggravated fans shelling out nearly $200 each season with the idea that they will be able to “catch all the action.” Fans, it’s the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs, and the count 0-2. Time to don your rally caps.
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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