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Will In-Market Streaming Model Be How MLB Extra Innings Blackouts Are Addressed? Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 11:45

MLB Blackout Map

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

By the time the 2009 MLB season comes to a close, it will have been over two years since MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy said that the baseball was looking into adjusting the league’s arcane and convoluted blackout policy. For years, fans that purchased MLB Extra Innings, the league’s out-of-market television package, have found that “watching all the action” depends greatly on where you live. And even then, exclusivity agreements with FOX and ESPN for weekend games blacks out the subscription service across the country. The adjustment that DuPuy has been lobbying for would have clubs lose a portion of their television territory, if they have not broadcast within it for over a year.

And, it’s not only been MLB Extra Innings. Ostensibly, the same blackout policy impacts MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium for your computer, or mobile device where games are streamed.

(Select the map provided to see the MLB blackout territories in larger view)

But, this year saw a fundamental shift for those looking to get games “in-market” – areas would normally be blacked.

In mid-June, the Yankees, YES Network, and Cablevision announced a deal, that through a partnership with MLB Advanced Media, would allow fans to catch Yankees games on their computer in their home broadcast territory. The deal was outside of any MLB.TV subscription, coming with a one-time fee of $49.95 for the remainder of the season or $19.95 for any 30-day period, which started on July 8. The Yankees in-market deal was followed a shortly thereafter by a similar deal between Cox Communications and the San Diego Padres.

With the blackout issue for MLB Extra Innings languishing for years, the question becomes, could MLB consider doing something similar for television? At the time of the Yankees in-market streaming deal, the question was posed by DuPuy who said that the streaming model would not be put into place with MLB Extra Innings. Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM said that the blackout issue is MLB.com's number one customer service question.

While DuPuy has said that the league intends to address the blackout policy for MLB Extra Innings, if revenues for the in-market streaming deals are decent, it may be all too tempting. to add, say, MLB Extra Innings Seattle for the Mariners.

By adding in-market game availability you are adding revenues, not taking them away, as DuPuy’s proposed plan would have it. Also, DuPuy’s restructuring plan removes only part of the blackout areas, not all. Many fans would still be hit with the Blackout Blues. Adding in-market games for an added sub fee would allow all that are willing to pay extra to see games in their market.

DuPuy has said that MLB still plans to address the MLB Extra Innings blackout issue, but then they have been saying this for years now. With the economy still chilly, the notion of adding revenues through in-market subscriptions, as opposed to only tweaking the blackout territories becomes more tempting by the minute. The next quarterly meetings by the owners is set for Nov. 17-19. With the sale of the Cubs a priority, and the season at end, odds seem exceptionally thin that DuPuy’s blackout changes get addressed… again.

Whether fans are willing to pay for extra for something that many believe should be freely available is a major consideration. While there were quiet rumblings with the Yankees and Padres in-market streaming deals, it seems a certainty that more noise would come out of any similar television package.

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 available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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