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2009 Season Begins With MLB Blackout Policy Still a Bone of Contention Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 26 March 2009 14:02

Blackout Blues“We’re still working on it.”

That was is the word from MLB on its television blackout policy that affects not only MLB Extra Innings, but national broadcasts on ESPN, TBS, and now MLB Network’s Thursday Night Baseball. While MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy looked to have the owners address the policy in the off-season, it seems the economy pushed the issue out... again.

For the uninitiated, here’s how the blackout policy functions across the various platforms.

MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV, the online package for watching out of market games:

  • Local Live Blackout: ALL LIVE MLB.TV games will be blacked out in each applicable Club's home television territory (except for certain home television territories for which MLB.com may offer in-market subscription services) or in Japan.
  • National Live Blackout (Regular Season): Due to Major League Baseball national exclusivities, each Saturday until 7:00 PM EST (beginning May 17, 2008 and continuing for remaining Saturdays during the regular season) and each Sunday night (for games that begin after 5:00 PM EST), all scheduled webcasts of games played within such time period will be blacked out.
  • National Live Blackout (Post Season): Due to Major League Baseball national exclusivities, during the MLB postseason, if you live within the following nations or territories, webcasts of all postseason games will be blacked out: United States, Canada, Guam, US Virgin Islands, South Korea and Japan.
  • NOTE: Due to broadcast restrictions, new MLB.TV and Condensed Game archives are limited to a playing time of five minutes in duration until 6 am ET on the day following that on which the applicable game commenced play.

As noted above, the country is blacked out due to agreements with FOX, ESPN and TBS. Here’s how that breaks down:

Every Saturday, from 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET, all games are blacked out due to an exclusivity agreement with FOX, which typically broadcasts one game starting at 3:55 Eastern. That means in a six-hour window in which games are being played, you can watch two games at most--the FOX game and your local team if it's playing on TV in that window and isn't the game being carried on FOX. On Sundays, ESPN holds the rights to night games, so any games that start after 5 p.m. ET are blacked out. In practice, this only affects a handful of games, as almost all Sunday games are played in the daytime. TBS airs 26 Sunday afternoon games this year which are blacked out in local markets--TBS can air an alternate game in those areas, and as many as 13 of any single team. So those of you in Boston and New York may barely be aware of TBS' arrangement by the end of the season.

Adding a new wrinkle to the Blackout Blues this year is MLB Network’s Thursday Night Baseball. For MLB Network, games will be blacked out in each team’s home television territory. Viewers in areas subject to blackouts will be provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming.

As for those blackout areas, it is a tangled world out there. Select Read More to see an image for each of the “local” broadcast areas for each of the 30 clubs.

MLB Blackout Map

MLB's blackout map is a confusing case
of overlapping territories.

(CLICK TO SEE IN LARGER VIEW)

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Maury BrownMaury 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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