Friday, April 22, 2011

The Problem With Blackouts

MLB currently has a policy that each major league team gets to select what areas are considered their home market. For the most part this isn't a problem, it allows those teams games to be played on the various networks (Comcast, FSN, etc.) in those areas. The problem with this setup is that games in that local area are blacked out if they are on say Wednesday night baseball on ESPN or MLB.TV.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the great state of Iowa, we are in the home market of 6 major league teams. Since there is no MLB team in our state and we are in relatively close proximity to those cities both Chicago teams, the Brewers, Twins, Royals and Cardinals have all claimed the entire state of Iowa as their turf. If I wanted to buy the MLB.TV package I would not be allowed to watch any of those six teams on my computer. If you want to check out what team or teams are blacked out in your zip code and you can't make sense of the map follow this link, scroll down to the bottom and enter your zip code.

Maybe some of you don't agree that Iowa is the greatest state in the nation and would rather live in Hawaii, well besides being wrong about Iowa you are going to run into the same problem. Even though they are seperated by a couple thousand miles 6 teams claim Hawaii as their home turf. Poor Hawaiins don't have the option of hopping in their car and road tripping it to the nearest ball park for a fun day in the sun so if they happen to be a fan of the Giants, A's, Mariners, Dodgers, Angels or Padres they are going to have a hard time watching their favorite teams. Same thing happens in Las Vegas as well.

MLB, it is time to come into the 21st century and get rid of blackouts. There might be a slim few that don't come to the Wrigley or the Cell or Busch because they can watch it on their laptop but that number is very few and the amount of goodwill that you would build with your fans far outweighs the reduced ticket sales.


  1. As someone who has the MLB.TV subscription, I certainly feel the pain of regional blackouts, in my case missing the Rockies on the computer. That said, I can see how the blackouts are set up to protect the regional sports networks. I think they have the blackouts more so for this purpose, than to protect the stadium ticket sales.

    If I really wanted to watch all the Rockies games, I could get cable or satellite and watch on ROOT sports. Do all 6 of those teams have regional sports networks covering Iowa?

    Rather than pay $50 or so per month to get pay-tv, I choose to listen to the Rockies on radio and pay $120 a year to watch the 29 other clubs on the internet.

    The blackout that really disturbs me is the Saturday afternoon Fox blackout. While I enjoy watching the game of Fox's choice in over-the-air antenna HD. I don't like that they get to choose the game I get to watch. For instance, today I'm watching the Braves-Giants rather than the Reds-Cardinals. Since MLB has given Fox an exclusive broadcast rights for the time slot of their choice, there's no way I can watch the Cardinals. While I can see why they might think I want to watch the Rockies divisional rival play, there are plenty of Saturday's that they choose to show me a Yankees game over a Cardinals game. Fox needs to tech up to the plate. A better approach would be if Fox chose to show me on game broadcast on TV, but allowed me to see the other games during that time slot on their website. Now that would be a win-win-win situation.

  2. I should also note though, that in the case of blacked out games, MLB.TV does provide the radio feeds for all games, which is a good gesture. Several times I've listened to the Sunday night radio broadcast in-lieu of paying to get ESPN.

  3. Some of the 6 are available in Iowa but not every game and I believe it depends on your provider. I have Dish Network which carries Comcast Chicago so we get most of the Cubs and Sox games on there and WGN. The other 4 teams are occasionally available on the alternate channels but it's at most half of the games. I believe it's similar with the cable providers and I think with Direct TV you have to buy their MLB package. For the most part no, not all of the regional sports networks are available here.

    I would be willing to shell out the $100-120 for MLB.TV but on any given night up to 6 of the 15 possible games are going to be blacked out. Why should I pay for a "premium" service when I can't see 40% of the product on a given night.

  4. Sounds like a pretty convincing argument on why not to live in Iowa.... :)

  5. Great post Matt, it reminded me of this commercial:

    That was my question as well: weather or not you get all 6 teams on local coverage. Being halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, we get all Cubs, White Sox, and Cardinals games on local cable. So I'm a big fan of the blackouts - anytime one of those three are schedules, I get the alternate game was well. Bonus Coverage, Baby!
    Well Done!